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J Exp Med. 2013 Sep 23;210(10):1961-76. doi: 10.1084/jem.20122508. Epub 2013 Sep 2.

Retinoic acid controls the homeostasis of pre-cDC-derived splenic and intestinal dendritic cells.

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  • 1Clinical Investigator Development Program and 2 Experimental Transplantation and Immunology Branch, 3 Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD 20892.

Abstract

Dendritic cells (DCs) comprise distinct populations with specialized immune-regulatory functions. However, the environmental factors that determine the differentiation of these subsets remain poorly defined. Here, we report that retinoic acid (RA), a vitamin A derivative, controls the homeostasis of pre-DC (precursor of DC)-derived splenic CD11b(+)CD8α(-)Esam(high) DCs and the developmentally related CD11b(+)CD103(+) subset within the gut. Whereas mice deprived of RA signaling significantly lost both of these populations, neither pre-DC-derived CD11b(-)CD8α(+) and CD11b(-)CD103(+) nor monocyte-derived CD11b(+)CD8α(-)Esam(low) or CD11b(+)CD103(-) DC populations were deficient. In fate-tracking experiments, transfer of pre-DCs into RA-supplemented hosts resulted in near complete conversion of these cells into the CD11b(+)CD8α(-) subset, whereas transfer into vitamin A-deficient (VAD) hosts caused diversion to the CD11b(-)CD8α(+) lineage. As vitamin A is an essential nutrient, we evaluated retinoid levels in mice and humans after radiation-induced mucosal injury and found this conditioning led to an acute VAD state. Consequently, radiation led to a selective loss of both RA-dependent DC subsets and impaired class II-restricted auto and antitumor immunity that could be rescued by supplemental RA. These findings establish a critical role for RA in regulating the homeostasis of pre-DC-derived DC subsets and have implications for the management of patients with immune deficiencies resulting from malnutrition and irradiation.

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