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Cell Stress Chaperones. 2000 Nov;5(5):458-61.

Regulation of immune activity by mild (fever-range) whole body hyperthermia: effects on epidermal Langerhans cells.

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Department of Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY 14263, USA.


Inflammation of the skin and systemic fever, both of which occur with injury or infection, include a hyperthermic component that many believe constitutes a physiological stress. Such increases in local or systemic body temperature may also have a regulatory effect on immune function. Langerhans cells (LCs), the dendritic cells of the skin, continuously monitor the extracellular matrix of the skin by taking up particles and microbes that they then carry to draining lymph nodes for presentation to T lymphocytes. We hypothesize that the thermal element of inflammation and/or fever may help regulate the activation and migration of LCs out of the epidermis. To test this hypothesis, Balb/ c mice were exposed to a mild (39.8 degrees C +/- 0.2 degrees C), long-duration (6 hours) whole body hyperthermia (WBH) treatment, which mimics the thermal component of fever. The number of LCs and their morphology were analyzed at various time points up to 7 days after the initiation of WBH. The LCs of the ear epidermis were visualized using a fluorescein isothiocyanate-conjugated antibody specific for the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecule and confocal microscopy. Although MHC class II staining was diffuse on the surface of the LC body and dendritic extensions of both WBH and control samples, the WBH-treated LCs exhibited a more punctate morphology with fewer dendritic processes compared with control LCs. A significant decrease in the number of LCs was also observed 1 to 5 days after WBH treatment. Furthermore, in vitro heating of Balb/c ear skin cultures at 40 degrees C for 6 to 8 hours enhanced the numbers of viable LCs that migrated into the culture wells. These results suggest that WBH treatment stimulates epidermal LCs in the absence of foreign antigen.

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