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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1999 Oct 20;885:188-95.

Human peripheral blood-derived dendritic cells express functional melanocortin receptor MC-1R.

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Ludwig Boltzmann-Institut for Cell- and Immunobiology of the Skin, University of M√ľnster, Germany.


The neuropeptide, alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH) is well known for its immunomodulating capabilities. alpha-MSH antagonizes the activity of numerous proinflammatory mediators; for example, Interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-6, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha), and bacterial endotoxin. In vivo alpha-MSH has been shown to suppress a contact hypersensitivity reaction in mice, and to induce hapten-specific tolerance. Since antigen presenting cells (APC) represent key elements for tolerance induction, the effect of alpha-MSH, and the expression of its receptor-melanocortin receptor-1 (MC-1R), on human peripheral blood-derived monocytes and dendritic cells (DC), was investigated. Semiquantitative RT-PCR demonstrated that monocytes and DC express MC-1R, but none of the other members of the MC-receptor family. Moreover, the extent of MC-1R expression correlated with the state of activation of these cells. Since the major ligand of MC-1R is alpha-MSH the question of whether alpha-MSH affects the function of monocyte derived DC was further investigated. We found that the expression of the costimulatory molecules CD 86 and CD 40 was downregulated on DC in the presence of alpha-MSH. Thus, alpha-MSH may exert its immunosuppressive effects by altering the function of APC.

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