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Am J Pathol. 2000 Feb;156(2):519-27.

Immunological activation of dermal Langerhans cells in contact with lymphocytes in a model of human inflamed skin.

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Departments of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery I, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.


Langerhans cells play an important role in the skin's immune system. Little is known, however, about the antigen-presenting capacity of Langerhans cells in the context of skin inflammation. By immunohistochemistry we investigated the phenotypic characteristics of epidermal and dermal Langerhans cells and their spatial relationship with infiltrating lymphocytes. We studied skin flaps autotransplanted to the oral cavity to fill a defect after maxillofacial cancer surgery. In 15 of 21 cases sampled for the present study, the skin flaps were severely inflamed by Candida albicans infection. In contrast to the normal skin, such inflamed skin showed a marked increase in CD1a(+) dermal Langerhans cells. Double immunohistochemistry revealed that dermal Langerhans cells abundantly expressed B7-2 (CD86), a representative costimulatory molecule, and CD83, a marker of mature dendritic cells. Furthermore, these dermal Langerhans cells were in close contact with CD4(+)/CD45RO(+) lymphocytes. This cell-to-cell contact was further visualized by immunoelectron microscopy. Langerhans cells were also observed within lymphatic vessels that were identified by the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3. Ki-67 labeling indices were 4.2% in CD4(+) T cells and 0.8% in CD8(+) T cells within the dermis. Factor XIIIa(+) dermal dendrocytes were distributed outside the clusters of lymphocytes and were not in contact with them. Our observations indicate that dermal Langerhans cells in the inflamed skin are activated to express common phenotypes to mature dendritic cells so that they could stimulate neighboring memory CD4(+) T cells.

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