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Curr Opin Immunol. 2008 Feb;20(1):52-60. Epub 2007 Dec 21.

Antigen presentation by monocytes and monocyte-derived cells.

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  • 1Department of Gene and Cell Medicine and the Immunology Institute, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY 10029, USA.


Monocytes are circulating mononuclear phagocytes with a fundamental capacity to differentiate into macrophages. This differentiation can, in the presence of the right environmental cues, be re-directed instead to dendritic cells (DCs). Recent advances have been made in understanding the role of monocytes and their derivatives in presenting antigen to drive immune responses, and we review this topic herein. We briefly discuss the heterogeneity of monocytes in the blood and subsequently raise the possibility that one of the major monocyte phenotypes in the blood corresponds with a population of 'blood DCs' previously proposed to drive T-independent antibody reactions in the spleen. Then we evaluate the role of monocytes in T-dependent immunity, considering their role in acquiring antigens for presentation before exiting the bloodstream and their ability to differentiate into macrophages versus antigen-presenting DCs. Finally, we review recent literature on the role of monocyte-derived cells in cross-presentation and discuss the possibility that monocyte-derived cells participate critically in processing antigen for cross-priming, even if they do not present that antigen to T cells themselves.

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