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J Immunol. 2003 Sep 1;171(5):2581-7.

Functional plasticity of dendritic cell subsets as mediated by CD40 versus B7 activation.

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  • 1Department of Experimental Medicine, University of Perugia, 06126 Perugia, Italy.


Murine dendritic cells (DCs) can present Ag in an immunogenic or tolerogenic fashion, the distinction depending on either the occurrence of specialized DC subsets or the maturation or activation state of the DC. Although DC subsets may be programmed to direct either tolerance or immunity, it is not known whether appropriate environmental stimulation can result in complete flexibility of a basic program. Using splenic CD8(-) and CD8(+) DCs that mediate the respective immunogenic and tolerogenic presentation of self peptides, we show that both the in vivo and in vitro activities of either subset can be altered by ligation of specific surface receptors. Otherwise immunogenic CD8(-) DCs become tolerogenic upon B7 ligation by soluble CTLA-4, a maneuver that initiates immunosuppressive tryptophan catabolism. In contrast, CD40 ligation on tolerogenic CD8(+) DCs makes these cells capable of immunogenic presentation. Thus, environmental conditioning by T cell ligands may alter the default function of DC subsets to meet the needs of flexibility and redundancy.

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