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Immunol Rev. 1999 Jun;169:45-54.

Role of dendritic cells in the induction and maintenance of autoimmune diseases.

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Institute of Experimental Immunology, Z├╝rich, Switzerland.


Autoimmune diseases are characterised by the loss of tolerance against self-determinants, activation of autoreactive lymphocytes and pathological damage to single or multiple organs. The mechanisms by which autoimmune responses are triggered and activation of autoreactive lymphocytes is initiated and maintained are not yet fully understood. Translocation of previously immunologically ignored antigens from the periphery to secondary lymphoid organs is probably a key step in the initiation of autoimmunity. Antigen transport and primary sensitisation of T lymphocytes is mainly mediated by dendritic cells which reside in peripheral non-lymphoid tissues and maintain a continuous gradient of antigens towards secondary lymphoid tissues. In the transgenic rat insulin promoter-glycoprotein model of autoimmune diabetes, dendritic cell (DC)-mediated antigen transport initiates an autoimmune response against a pancreatic neoself-antigen. Dose and timing of antigen delivery by DC and turnover of antigenic peptides presented by DC are the main parameters regulating the outcome of autoimmune diabetes in this model system. An important sequel of continued antigenic stimulation via DC is the formation of lymphoid structures in the pancreas. Thus, appropriate and repeated activation of cytotoxic T lymphocytes by DC, in concert with local inflammatory processes leading to formation of organised lymphoid tissue in the target organ, is likely to be crucial in the development of destructive autoimmunity. Therapeutic intervention to selectively manipulate antigen transport by dendritic cells or to influence antigen presentation may prove beneficial for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, the capacity of DC to induce potent antiself responses might have implications for the use of DC presenting self-antigens in treatment of established tumours.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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