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Blood. 2003 Sep 15;102(6):2187-94. Epub 2003 Jun 5.

Most lymphoid organ dendritic cell types are phenotypically and functionally immature.

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  • 1Immunology Division, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, 1G Royal Parade, Melbourne, Victoria 3050, Australia.


Dendritic cells (DCs) have been thought to follow a life history, typified by Langerhans cells (LCs), with 2 major developmental stages: an immature stage that captures antigens in the periphery and a mature stage that presents those antigens in the lymphoid organs. However, a systematic assessment of the maturity of lymphoid organ DCs has been lacking. We have analyzed the maturity of the DC types found in the steady state in the spleen, lymph nodes (LNs), and thymus. The DCs that migrate into the iliac, mesenteric, mediastinal, or subcutaneous LNs from peripheral tissues were mature and therefore could not process and present newly encountered antigens. However, all the other DC types were phenotypically and functionally immature: they expressed low levels of surface major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC II) and CD86, accumulated MHC II in their endosomes, and could present newly encountered antigens. These immature DCs could be induced to mature by culture in vitro or by inoculation of inflammatory stimuli in vivo. Therefore, the lymphoid organs contain a large cohort of immature DCs, most likely for the maintenance of peripheral tolerance, which can respond to infections reaching those organs and mature in situ.

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