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Immunobiology. 2007;212(3):167-77. Epub 2007 Mar 13.

Ex vivo characterization of human thymic dendritic cell subsets.

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Unité de Régulation des Infections Rétrovirales, Institut Pasteur, 25 rue du Dr Roux, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France. <>


Interactions between thymic dendritic cells (DC) and thymocytes are critical for proper development of T-cells. We identified human thymic DC populations on the basis of CD123, CD11c and CD14 expression. High levels of CD123 (IL-3R) and CD45RA defined the plasmacytoid DC (pDC) subset. Human thymic CD11c(+) DC expressed CD45RO and myeloid-related markers (CD13, CD33 and CD11b). CD11c(+) DC could be separated into two main subsets based on differential expression of CD14: CD11c(+) CD14(-) and CD11c(+) CD14(+) cells. Spontaneous production of IL-10 and IFNgamma without exogenous stimulation, was observed in the three DC subsets. Important phenotype modifications were observed in pDC cultures supplemented with IL-3. A down-regulation of CD123 and appearance of myeloid markers such as CD11b and CD11c on CD45RA(+) cells was noticed within the first 48h; at a later time there was a shift from CD45RA to CD45RO expression, as well as appearance of CD14 expression. CD11c(+) cells emerging in pDC culture did not express high levels of HLA-DR, CD83 and co-stimulatory molecules. This suggests an in vitro evolution of human thymic pDC toward a myeloid phenotype found in the CD11c(+) subset of thymic DC.

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