Leukocyte kinetics in pulmonary microcirculation: intravital fluorescence microscopic study

W. M. Kuebler, G. E. Kuhnle, J. Groh, A. E. Goetz


To determine the site of sequestration of leukocytes in the lung, we investigated the kinetics of fluorescently labeled erythrocytes and leukocytes in pulmonary arterioles, venules, and alveolar capillaries in vivo by using fluorescence videomicroscopy. The subpleural pulmonary microcirculation of the ventilated rabbit lung was visualized via a transparent window implanted into the right thoracic wall. Fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled erythrocytes were administered intravenously, whereas leukocytes were labeled in vivo by intravenous injection of rhodamine 6G. Rolling and adherence of leukocytes on the surface of the vessel walls were observed in arterioles as well as in venules. The median velocity of nonadherent leukocytes was significantly higher in arterioles than in venules (84 +/- 12 vs. 15 +/- 3% of erythrocyte velocity, respectively). In alveolar capillaries the majority of leukocytes were retained at distinct sites for periods of 0.1 to > 5 s (median 0.61 s). The relative velocity of leukocytes moving in capillaries was comparable to that determined in arterioles (80 +/- 9% of erythrocyte velocity). These measurements indicate that leukocyte sequestration in the lung is governed by the retention of leukocytes in capillaries and by the interaction of leukocytes with microvascular endothelium of arterioles and venules. We propose that the kinetics of these phenomena determine the equilibrium between circulating and sequestered leukocytes.