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Gut. 2009 Nov;58(11):1481-9. doi: 10.1136/gut.2008.175166. Epub 2009 Jun 30.

Human intestinal epithelial cells promote the differentiation of tolerogenic dendritic cells.

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  • 1Department of Experimental Oncology, European Institute of Oncology, 20141 Milan, Italy.



In mice, a subpopulation of gut dendritic cells (DCs) expressing CD103 drives the development of regulatory T (T(reg)) cells. Further, it was recently described that the cross-talk between human intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) and DCs helps in maintaining gut immune homeostasis via the induction of non-inflammatory DCs. In this study, an analysis was carried out to determine whether IECs could promote the differentiation of CD103+ tolerogenic DCs, and the function of primary CD103+ DCs isolated from human mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs) was evaluated.


Monocyte-derived DCs (MoDCs) and circulating CD1c+ DCs were conditioned or not with supernatants from Caco-2 cells or IECs isolated from healthy donors or donors with Crohn's disease and analysed for their ability to induce T(reg) cell differentiation. In some cases, transforming growth factor beta (TGFbeta), retinoic acid (RA) or thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) were neutralised before conditioning. CD103+ and CD103- DCs were sorted by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) from MLNs and used in T(reg) cell differentiation experiments.


It was found that human IECs promoted the differentiation of tolerogenic DCs able to drive the development of adaptive Foxp3+ T(reg) cells. This control was lost in patients with Crohn's disease and paralleled a reduced expression of tolerogenic factors by primary IECs. MoDCs differentiated with RA or IEC supernatant upregulated the expression of CD103. Consistently, human primary CD103+ DCs isolated from MLNs were endowed with the ability to drive T(reg) cell differentiation. This subset of DCs expressed CCR7 and probably represents a lamina propria-derived migratory population.


A population of tolerogenic CD103+ DCs was identified in the human gut that probably differentiate in response to IEC-derived factors and drive T(reg) cell development.

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