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J Exp Med. 2000 Feb 7;191(3):423-34.

Consequences of cell death: exposure to necrotic tumor cells, but not primary tissue cells or apoptotic cells, induces the maturation of immunostimulatory dendritic cells.

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Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology, The Rockefeller University, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Cell death by necrosis is typically associated with inflammation, in contrast to apoptosis. We have identified additional distinctions between the two types of death that occur at the level of dendritic cells (DCs) and which influence the induction of immunity. DCs must undergo changes termed maturation to act as potent antigen-presenting cells. Here, we investigated whether exposure to apoptotic or necrotic cells affected DC maturation. We found that immature DCs efficiently phagocytose a variety of apoptotic and necrotic tumor cells. However, only exposure to the latter induces maturation. The mature DCs express high levels of the DC-restricted markers CD83 and lysosome-associated membrane glycoprotein (DC-LAMP) and the costimulatory molecules CD40 and CD86. Furthermore, they develop into powerful stimulators of both CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells. Cross-presentation of antigens to CD8(+) T cells occurs after uptake of apoptotic cells. We demonstrate here that optimal cross-presentation of antigens from tumor cells requires two steps: phagocytosis of apoptotic cells by immature DCs, which provides antigenic peptides for major histocompatibility complex class I and class II presentation, and a maturation signal that is delivered by exposure to necrotic tumor cells, their supernatants, or standard maturation stimuli, e.g., monocyte-conditioned medium. Thus, DCs are able to distinguish two types of tumor cell death, with necrosis providing a control that is critical for the initiation of immunity.

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