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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e46776. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046776. Epub 2012 Oct 9.

Human Langerhans cells control Th cells via programmed death-ligand 1 in response to bacterial stimuli and nickel-induced contact allergy.

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German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Department of Product Safety, Berlin, Germany.


Langerhans cells (LCs) are suspected to initiate inflammatory immune responses to contact allergens and pathogenic bacteria. In chronic infectious diseases, programmed death ligand (PD-L) 1 exhibits both inhibitory and costimulatory functions on T cell-mediated activation and tolerance. Here, we investigated the effects of contact allergens and bacterial stimuli on PD-L1 expression in LCs and the effects of altered PD-L1 expression on cytokine release of subsequently cocultured T cells. Monocyte-derived LCs (MoLCs), LCs, and skin sections of patients suffering from allergic contact dermatitis were challenged with nickel and then analyzed for PD-L1 expression by confocal laser scanning microscopy and flow cytometry. In blocking experiments, we found that the release of Th cell specific cytokines was dependent on both stimulation of LCs and inhibition of PD-L1-PD-1 interactions. Stimulation with peptidoglycan (PGN) or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and blockage of PD-L1 with a specific antibody triggered the release of high levels of IL-17, IL-22, TNF-α, and IFN-γ in CD4(+)T cells. If nickel was used as a stimulus, blockage of PD-L1 led to high amounts of TNF-α and IL-22. A closer look revealed PD-L1-dependent upregulation of IL-17 secretion in FACS-sorted CCR6(+)/CCR4(+) T memory cells. In the presence of anti-PD-L1, PGN induced secretion of IFN-γ and IL-17 in total CCR6(+) cells, while nickel triggered secretion of IFN-γ and IL-17 exclusively in CCR6(+)/CCR4(+) cells. Our findings suggest that PD-L1 on LCs plays a crucial role in type IV allergic reactions and in response to bacterial stimuli by controlling the nature of inflammatory Th cell responses.

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