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Front Immunol. 2013 Feb 28;4:53. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2013.00053. eCollection 2013.

The nature of activatory and tolerogenic dendritic cell-derived signal II.

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Department of Tumor Immunology, Nijmegen Centre for Molecular Life Sciences, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre Nijmegen, Netherlands.


Dendritic cells (DCs) are central in maintaining the intricate balance between immunity and tolerance by orchestrating adaptive immune responses. Being the most potent antigen presenting cells, DCs are capable of educating naïve T cells into a wide variety of effector cells ranging from immunogenic CD4(+) T helper cells and cytotoxic CD8(+) T cells to tolerogenic regulatory T cells. This education is based on three fundamental signals. Signal I, which is mediated by antigen/major histocompatibility complexes binding to antigen-specific T cell receptors, guarantees antigen specificity. The co-stimulatory signal II, mediated by B7 family molecules, is crucial for the expansion of the antigen-specific T cells. The final step is T cell polarization by signal III, which is conveyed by DC-derived cytokines and determines the effector functions of the emerging T cell. Although co-stimulation is widely recognized to result from the engagement of T cell-derived CD28 with DC-expressed B7 molecules (CD80/CD86), other co-stimulatory pathways have been identified. These pathways can be divided into two groups based on their impact on primed T cells. Whereas pathways delivering activatory signals to T cells are termed co-stimulatory pathways, pathways delivering tolerogenic signals to T cells are termed co-inhibitory pathways. In this review, we discuss how the nature of DC-derived signal II determines the quality of ensuing T cell responses and eventually promoting either immunity or tolerance. A thorough understanding of this process is instrumental in determining the underlying mechanism of disorders demonstrating distorted immunity/tolerance balance, and would help innovating new therapeutic approaches for such disorders.


T cell priming; activation; co-inhibition; co-stimulation; dendritic cells; tolerance

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