White pulp

White pulp is a histological designation for regions of the spleen (named because it appears whiter than the surrounding red pulp on gross section), that encompasses approximately 25% of splenic tissue. White pulp consists entirely of lymphoid tissue.

White pulp
Transverse section of a portion of the spleen. (Lymphatic nodule labeled at center right.)
Arterytrabecular artery
Veintrabecular vein
Latinnoduli lymphoidei splenici
Anatomical terminology

Specifically, the white pulp encompasses several areas with distinct functions:

Macrophages in the white pulp

The T cell zone (periarteriolar sheath) and B cell follicles contain discrete macrophage populations; however, not much is known about these macrophage populations in terms of their origin and lifespan. These macrophages are not unique to the spleen but instead make up an integral part of the lymphoid parts of all secondary lymphoid organs.

In the B cell follicles, the macrophages are important in clearing the apoptotic B cells that occur during the germinal centre reaction in the process of somatic hypermutation and isotype switching. B cells that cannot form their appropriate receptors will die of apoptosis and are subsequently cleared by the macrophages in the germinal centre. During intensive germinal centre reactions, this process is obvious due to the presence of the large macrophages in the germinal centre, known as tingible body macrophages. (They're named this because their 'tingible bodies' represent condensed apoptotic nuclei.) In order for the apoptotic cells to be taken up by macrophages, it is important that phosphatidylserine is expressed on the outer surface of the apoptotic cells, which is recognized by multiple receptors. The tangible body macrophages express: tyrosine kinase Mer, the milk fat globule epidermal growth factor 8 and Tim-4, all of which supports the engulfment of the apoptotic cells into the macrophages.

Macrophages are also present in the T cell area of the white pulp but their role is less well understood. This population of macrophages can be found in all the other T cell zones of the secondary lymphoid organs. It is possible that these macrophages are descendants of patrolling monocytes that entered the white pulp from the blood. Due to them being positioned alongside T cells, it is suggested that these macrophages have a role in antigen presentation or the removal of dying lymphocytes.[1]

See also


This article incorporates text in the public domain from page 1285 of the 20th edition of Gray's Anatomy (1918)

  1. den Haan, Joke M.M.; Kraal, Georg (2012). "Innate Immune Functions of Macrophage Subpopulations in the Spleen". Journal of Innate Immunity. 4 (5–6): 437–445. doi:10.1159/000335216. ISSN 1662-8128. PMID 22327291.
  2. Le, Tao (2018). First aid to USMLE step 1 2018. p. 98.

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