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Eur J Immunol. 1999 Jun;29(6):1803-11.

Murine dendritic cells internalize Leishmania major promastigotes, produce IL-12 p40 and stimulate primary T cell proliferation in vitro.

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Antigen Presentation Research Group, Imperial College School of Medicine, Northwick Park Institute for Medical Research, Harrow, GB.


Metacyclic Leishmania promastigotes (PM), transmitted by sand-fly bite, are likely to interact initially with cells of the dendritic cell (DC) lineage(s) in the epidermis or dermis. Epidermal Langerhans cells internalize L. major amastigotes (AM) and transport them to draining lymph nodes (Moll, H., Fuchs, H., Blank, C. and Röllinghoff, M., Eur. J. Immunol. 1993. 23: 1595) but little is known about the interaction of DC with PM. The present study demonstrates that DC are able to internalize PM and that the fate of the parasites within DC differs from that within macrophages (Mphi). DC took up small numbers of PM which did not differentiate into AM but appeared to be degraded; Mphi internalized large numbers of PM into parasitophorous vacuoles where they differentiated into AM. In response to direct stimulation with PM, DC from both C3H ("resistant" to L. major infection) and BALB/c ("susceptible") up-regulated production of IL-12 p40. In contrast, IL-12 production by Mphi was not detected. DC exposed to either metacyclic PM or PM culture supernatants were also able to stimulate proliferative responses in lymph node T cells from naive mice. These data indicate that DC have the capacity to promote protective Th1 immune responses in Leishmania infection and suggest that DC exposed to PM may be useful in immunotherapy and vaccination.

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