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J Immunol. 2005 Aug 15;175(4):2071-81.

Both dendritic cells and macrophages can stimulate naive CD8 T cells in vivo to proliferate, develop effector function, and differentiate into memory cells.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA 01655, USA.


The generation of T cell immunity requires the acquisition and presentation of Ag on bone marrow-derived APCs. Dendritic cells (DC) are believed to be the most potent bone marrow-derived APCs, and the only ones that can stimulate naive T cells to productively respond to Ags. Because macrophages (Mphi) are bone marrow-derived APCs that are also found in tissues and lymphoid organs, can acquire and present Ag, and can express costimulatory molecules, we have investigated their potential to stimulate primary T cell responses in vivo. We find that both injected Mphi and DCs can migrate from peripheral tissues or blood into lymphoid organs. Moreover, injection of peptide-pulsed Mphi or DCs into mice stimulates CD8 T cells to proliferate, express effector functions including cytokine production and cytolysis, and differentiate into long-lived memory cells. Mphi and DCs stimulate T cells directly without requiring cross-presentation of Ag on host APCs. Therefore, more than one type of bone marrow-derived APC has the potential to prime T cell immunity. In contrast, another bone marrow-derived cell, the T lymphocyte, although capable of presenting Ag and homing to the T cell areas of lymphoid organs, is unable to stimulate primary responses. Because Mphi can be very abundant cells, especially at sites of infection and inflammation, they have the potential to play an important role in immune surveillance and the initiation of T cell immunity.

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