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Nat Immunol. 2010 Aug;11(8):656-65. doi: 10.1038/ni.1905. Epub 2010 Jul 20.

Epithelial decision makers: in search of the 'epimmunome'.

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London Research Institute, Cancer Research UK, London, UK.


Frequent microbial and nonmicrobial challenges to epithelial cells trigger discrete pathways, promoting molecular changes such as the secretion of specific cytokines and chemokines and alterations to molecules displayed at the epithelial cell surface. In combination, these molecules impose key decisions on innate and adaptive immune cells. Depending on context, those decisions can be as diverse as those imposed by professional antigen-presenting cells, benefiting the host by balancing immune competence with the avoidance of immunopathology. Nonetheless, this potency of epithelial cells is also consistent with the causal contribution of epithelial dysregulation to myriad inflammatory diseases. This pathogenic axis provides an attractive target for tissue-specific clinical manipulation. In this context, a research goal should be to identify all molecules used by epithelial cells to instruct immune cells. We term this the 'epimmunome'.

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