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Eur J Histochem. 2000;44(3):229-36.

Apoptosis and systemic autoimmunity: the dendritic cell connection.

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Cancer Immunotherapy and Gene Therapy Program and Immunopathology Unit, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Istituto Scientifico H S. Raffaele, Milano, Italy.


Much effort has been devoted in recent years to the events linking recognition and disposal of apoptotic cells to sustained immunity towards the antigens they contain. Programmed death via apoptosis indeed provides most of the raw material the immune system exploits to establish self tolerance, i.e. to learn how to distinguish between self constituents and foreign antigens, belonging to invading pathogens. In parallel, events occurring during cell death may enable a restricted array of molecules endowed with diverse structure, function and intracellular distribution to satisfy the requirement to evoke and maintain autoimmune responses. Dendritic cells (DCs), the most potent antigen presenting cells, appear to play a crucial role. Here we will discuss some of the constrains regulating the access of dying cells' antigens to DCs, as well as censorship mechanisms that prevent their maturation and the full explication of their antigen presenting function.

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