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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2012 Jan 15;302(2):L226-37. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00059.2011. Epub 2011 Nov 18.

Dendritic cell functional properties in a three-dimensional tissue model of human lung mucosa.

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Center for Infectious Medicine, F59, Dept. of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Karolinska Univ. Hospital, Huddinge, 141 86 Stockholm, Sweden.


In lung tissue, dendritic cells (DC) are found in close association with the epithelial cell layer, and there is evidence of DC regulation by the epithelium; that epithelial dysfunction leads to overzealous immune cell activation. However, dissecting basic mechanisms of DC interactions with epithelial cells in human tissue is difficult. Here, we describe a method to generate a three-dimensional organotypic model of the human airway mucosa in which we have implanted human DC. The model recapitulates key anatomical and functional features of lung mucosal tissue, including a stratified epithelial cell layer, deposition of extracellular matrix proteins, and the production of tight junction and adherence junction proteins. Labeling of fixed tissue model sections and imaging of live tissue models also revealed that DC distribute in close association with the epithelial layer. As functional properties of DC may be affected by the local tissue microenvironment, this system provides a tool to study human DC function associated with lung mucosal tissue. As an example, we report that the lung tissue model regulates the capacity of DC to produce the chemokines CCL17, CCL18, and CCL22, leading to enhanced CCL18 expression and reduced CCL17 and CCL22 expression. This novel tissue model thus provides a tool well suited for a wide range of studies, including those on the regulation of DC functional properties within the local tissue microenvironment during homeostasis and inflammatory reactions.

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