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J Immunol. 1999 May 1;162(9):5287-98.

Dendritic cells undergo rapid apoptosis in vitro during antigen-specific interaction with CD4+ T cells.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas 75235, USA.


The terminal fate of dendritic cells (DC) remains relatively uncertain. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that DC undergo apoptosis after Ag-specific interaction with T cells. When splenic DC isolated from BALB/c mice were cocultured with HDK-1 T cells (a keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH)-specific CD4+ Th1 clone) in the presence of KLH, they showed conspicuous cell death as measured by propidium iodide (PI) uptake and chromatin condensation, whereas they remained relatively intact when incubated with either T cells or KLH alone. Likewise, the long term DC line XS52, which was established from BALB/c mouse epidermis, also died rapidly (within 2 h), and they exhibited characteristic DNA laddering when cocultured with HDK-1 T cells in the presence of KLH. RT-PCR and FACS analyses revealed the expression of CD95 (Fas) by XS52 DC and of CD95 ligand (CD95L) (Fas ligand) by activated HDK-1 T cells, suggesting a functional role for these molecules. In fact, anti-CD95L mAb inhibited partially (50%) T cell-mediated XS52 cell death, and coupling of surface CD95 with anti-CD95 mAb triggered significant XS52 cell death, but only in the presence of cycloheximide. Thus, ligation of CD95 (on DC) with CD95L (on T cells) is one, but not the only, mechanism by which T cells induce DC death. Finally, DC isolated from the CD95-deficient mice were found to be significantly more efficient than DC from control mice in their capacity to induce delayed type hypersensitivity responses in vivo. We propose that T cell-induced DC apoptosis serves as a unique down-regulatory mechanism that prevents the interminable activation of T cells by Ag-bearing DC.

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