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Mucosal Immunol. 2013 Jul;6(4):847-56. doi: 10.1038/mi.2012.123. Epub 2012 Dec 12.

Retinoic acid regulates the development of a gut-homing precursor for intestinal dendritic cells.

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  • 1Laboratory of Immunology and Vascular Biology, Department of Pathology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA.


The vitamin A metabolite retinoic acid (RA) regulates intestinal immune responses through immunomodulatory actions on intestinal dendritic cells (DCs) and lymphocytes. Here, we show that RA also controls the generation of gut-tropic migratory DC precursors, referred to as pre-mucosal DCs (pre-μDCs). Pre-μDCs express the gut trafficking receptor α4β7 and home preferentially to the intestines. They develop in the bone marrow (BM), can differentiate into CCR9⁺ plasmacytoid DCs as well as conventional DCs (cDCs), but preferentially give rise to CD103⁺ intestinal cDCs. Generation of pre-μDCs in vivo in the BM or in vitro is regulated by RA and RA receptor α (RARα) signaling. The frequency of pre-μDCs is reduced in vitamin A-deficient animals and in animals treated with RAR inhibitors. The results define a novel vitamin A-dependent, RA-regulated developmental sequence for DCs and identify a targeted precursor for CD103⁺ cDCs in the gut.

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