Lymphocytes home to lymph nodes, using L-selectin to bind specific ligands on high endothelial venules (HEV). In vitro studies implicate GlcNAc-6-sulfate as an essential posttranslational modification for ligand activity. Here, we show that genetic deletion of HEC-GlcNAc6ST, a sulfotransferase that is highly restricted to HEV, results in the loss of the binding of recombinant L-selectin to the luminal aspect of HEV, elimination of lymphocyte binding in vitro, and markedly reduced in vivo homing. Reactivity with MECA 79, an adhesion-blocking mAb that stains HEV in lymph nodes and vessels in chronic inflammatory sites, is also lost from the luminal aspects of HEV. These results establish a critical role for HEC-GlcNAc6ST in lymphocyte trafficking and suggest it as an important therapeutic target.
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