PD-L1 expression on nonclassical monocytes reveals their origin and immunoregulatory function

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Science Immunology  21 Jun 2019:
Vol. 4, Issue 36, eaar3054
DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aar3054

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Nonclassical Monocyte Marker

Nonclassical monocytes (NCMs) are a subset of monocytes that act as sentinels in the skin endothelium and lung microvasculature. The origin of NCMs is not well understood, and Bianchini et al. now identify the immune checkpoint molecule PD-L1 as a marker that can track NCMs. Using two-photon microscopy, PD-L1+ NCMs could be tracked within the bone marrow, and contact with endosteal vessels was required for conversion from classical monocytes to NCMs. Under inflammatory conditions, PD-L1+ NCMs were found in tertiary lymphoid organs (TLOs), and expression of PD-L1 by NCMs regulated T cell survival in TLOs. Together, these findings reveal PD-L1 as a valuable tool for studying the origin and functions of NCMs.


The role of nonclassical monocytes (NCMs) in health and disease is emerging, but their location and function within tissues remain poorly explored. Imaging of NCMs has been limited by the lack of an established single NCM marker. Here, we characterize the immune checkpoint molecule PD-L1 (CD274) as an unequivocal marker for tracking NCMs in circulation and pinpoint their compartmentalized distribution in tissues by two-photon microscopy. Visualization of PD-L1+ NCMs in relation to bone marrow vasculature reveals that conversion of classical monocytes into NCMs requires contact with endosteal vessels. Furthermore, PD-L1+ NCMs are present in tertiary lymphoid organs (TLOs) under inflammatory conditions in both mice and humans, and NCMs exhibit a PD-L1–dependent immunomodulatory function that promotes T cell apoptosis within TLOs. Our findings establish an unambiguous tool for the investigation of NCMs and shed light on their origin and function.

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