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J Immunol. 2002 May 1;168(9):4361-71.

Matrix metalloproteinases 9 and 2 are necessary for the migration of Langerhans cells and dermal dendritic cells from human and murine skin.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria.


Dendritic cells migrate from the skin to the draining lymph nodes. They transport immunogenic MHC-peptide complexes, present them to Ag-specific T cells in the T areas, and thus generate immunity. Migrating dendritic cells encounter physical obstacles, such as basement membranes and collagen meshwork. Prior work has revealed that matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) contributes to mouse Langerhans cell migration. In this study, we use mouse and human skin explant culture models to further study the role of MMPs in the migration and maturation of skin dendritic cells. We found that MMP-2 and MMP-9 are expressed on the surface of dendritic cells from the skin, but not from other sources. They are also expressed in migrating Langerhans cells in situ. The migration of both Langerhans cells and dermal dendritic cells is inhibited by a broad spectrum inhibitor of MMPs (BB-3103), by Abs to MMP-9 and -2, and by the natural tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMP), TIMP-1 and TIMP-2. Inhibition by anti-MMP-2 and TIMP-2 define a functional role for MMP-2 in addition to the previously described function of MMP-9. The importance of MMP-9 was emphasized using MMP-9-deficient mice in which Langerhans cell migration from skin explants was strikingly reduced. However, MMP-9 was only required for Langerhans cell migration and not maturation, since nonmigrating Langerhans cells isolated from the epidermis matured normally with regard to morphology, phenotype, and T cell stimulatory function. These data underscore the importance of MMPs, and they may be of relevance for therapeutically regulating dendritic cell migration in clinical vaccination approaches.

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