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J Exp Med. 1999 Dec 20;190(12):1755-68.

Macrophage inflammatory protein 3alpha is involved in the constitutive trafficking of epidermal langerhans cells.

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  • 1Division of Immunology, Department of Dermatology, University of Vienna Medical School, A-1090 Vienna, Austria.


Certain types of dendritic cells (DCs) appear in inflammatory lesions of various etiologies, whereas other DCs, e.g., Langerhans cells (LCs), populate peripheral organs constitutively. Until now, the molecular mechanism behind such differential behavior has not been elucidated. Here, we show that CD1a(+) LC precursors respond selectively and specifically to the CC chemokine macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-3alpha. In contrast, CD14(+) precursors of DC and monocytes are not attracted by MIP-3alpha. LCs lose the migratory responsiveness to MIP-3alpha during their maturation, and non-LC DCs do not acquire MIP-3alpha sensitivity. The notion that MIP-3alpha may be responsible for selective LC recruitment into the epidermis is further supported by the following observations: (a) MIP-3alpha is expressed by keratinocytes and venular endothelial cells in clinically normal appearing human skin; (b) LCs express CC chemokine receptor (CCR)6, the sole MIP-3alpha receptor both in situ and in vitro; and (c) non-LC DCs that are not found in normal epidermis lack CCR6. The mature forms of LCs and non-LC DCs display comparable sensitivity for MIP-3beta, a CCR7 ligand, suggesting that DC subtype-specific chemokine responses are restricted to the committed precursor stage. Although LC precursors express primarily CCR6, non-LC DC precursors display a broad chemokine receptor repertoire. These findings reflect a scenario where the differential expression of chemokine receptors by two different subpopulations of DCs determines their functional behavior. One type, the LC, responds to MIP-3alpha and enters skin to screen the epidermis constitutively, whereas the other type, the "inflammatory" DC, migrates in response to a wide array of different chemokines and is involved in the amplification and modulation of the inflammatory tissue response.

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