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J Immunol. 2007 Jun 15;178(12):7994-8001.

Lung dendritic cells rapidly mediate anthrax spore entry through the pulmonary route.

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  • 1Unité Interactions Hôte-Pathogène, Département de Biologie des Agents Transmissibles, Centre de Recherches du Service de Santé des Armées, 24 Avenue des Maquis du Grésivaudan, 38702 La Tronche, France.


Inhalational anthrax is a life-threatening infectious disease of considerable concern, especially because anthrax is an emerging bioterrorism agent. The exact mechanisms leading to a severe clinical form through the inhalational route are still unclear, particularly how immobile spores are captured in the alveoli and transported to the lymph nodes in the early steps of infection. We investigated the roles of alveolar macrophages and lung dendritic cells (LDC) in spore migration. We demonstrate that alveolar macrophages are the first cells to phagocytose alveolar spores, and do so within 10 min. However, interstitial LDCs capture spores present in the alveoli within 30 min without crossing the epithelial barrier suggesting a specific mechanism for rapid alveolus sampling by transepithelial extension. We show that interstitial LDCs constitute the cell population that transports spores into the thoracic lymph nodes from within 30 min to 72 h after intranasal infection. Our results demonstrate that LDCs are central to spore transport immediately after infection. The rapid kinetics of pathogen transport may contribute to the clinical features of inhalational anthrax.

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