Secondary lymphoid organs (SLO), such as lymph nodes and the spleen, display a complex micro-architecture. In the T cell zone the micro-architecture is provided by a network of fibroblastic reticular cells (FRC) and their filaments. The FRC network is thought to enhance the interaction between immune cells and their cognate antigen. However, the effect of the FRC network on cell interaction cannot be quantified to date because of limitations in immunological methodology. We use computational models to study the influence of different densities of FRC networks on the probability that two cells meet. We developed a 3D cellular automaton model to simulate cell movements and interactions along the FRC network inside lymphatic tissue. We show that the FRC network density has only a small effect on the probability of a cell to come into contact with a static or motile target. However, damage caused by a disruption of the FRC network is greatest at FRC densities corresponding to densities observed in the spleen of naïve mice. Our analysis suggests that the FRC network as a guiding structure for moving T cells has only a minor effect on the probability to find a corresponding dendritic cell. We propose alternative hypotheses by which the FRC network might influence the functionality of immune responses in a more significant way.
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