The beta 7-integrin subunit can pair with two alpha-chains, alpha 4 and alpha E, and is expressed mainly on lymphocytes. As an alpha 4- heterodimer it binds to the mucosal addressin MAdCAM-1, thus acting as a mucosal homing receptor. As an alpha E-heterodimer it binds to E- cadherin and is mainly found on intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes. Consequently, beta 7 is mostly expressed on lymphocytes of the mucosal immune system. To study the compartmentalization of these cells further we compared the distribution of such lymphocytes in two strains of mice (BALB/c and NOD) and found that the distribution of beta 7-positive lymphocytes among various lymphoid tissues in these strains was very different. In NOD mice a conspicuous population of beta 7- integrin(high) lymphocytes expressing either alpha 4, alpha E, or both, was found in nonmucosal lymphoid tissues such as peripheral lymph nodes (PLNs). They mostly expressed the PLN homing receptor L-selectin, and included both naive and memory cells on the basis of their expression of CD44/pgp-1 and CD45RB, as did the few beta 7(high) lymphocytes in BALB/c PLNs. Their homing to Peyer's patches (PPs) and PLNs was equally effective and the cells homing to PPs and PLNs were equal in their level of L-selectin and alpha 4/beta 7 expression. However, functional studies indicated that their homing to PPs mostly depended on alpha 4/beta 7-integrin, whereas they mainly used L-selectin to home to PLNs. beta 7(high) lymphocytes were found also in circulating blood of unmanipulated NOD mice, and their L-selectin expression was higher than in BALB/c mice. These results show that lymphocytes of the mucosal immune system may also express the peripheral node homing receptor L- selectin during their recirculation and that in NOD mice they frequently retain a dual homing specificity, which leads to their accumulation in nonmucosal tissues.

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