Adhesive interactions between lymphocytes and components of the extracellular matrix (ECM) within a wound environment play a crucial role in determining the inflammatory response following tissue injury. In fetal wounds the extracellular matrix is composed predominantly of hyaluronic acid. Within this environment the inflammatory reaction as a result of injury is minimal. We propose that this lack of an inflammatory cell response in the fetal wound is due to the high levels of hyaluronic acid within the ECM and the inability of lymphocytes to adhere to this matrix component. Therefore, we examined the adhesive properties of fetal lymphocytes to fibronectin, vitronectin, collagen types I, III, IV, V, and hyaluronic acid — ECM components involved in fetal and adult wound environments. Fetal lymphocytes from both spleen and thymus demonstrated significant binding capabilities to fibronectin, vitronectin, and collagen types I and III. No intrinsic binding capabilities were detected to hyaluronic acid. Adhesion was not affected by the addition of IL-1, IFN-γ, or phorbol dibutyrate. The inability of lymphocytes to adhere to hyaluronic acid helps to explain the lack of inflammation found in fetal wounds and serves to demonstrate the importance of ECM-lymphocyte interactions in determining the inflammatory response during fetal wound healing.
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