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Nat Rev Immunol. 2014 Nov;14(11):719-30. doi: 10.1038/nri3754. Epub 2014 Oct 17.

Atypical MHC class II-expressing antigen-presenting cells: can anything replace a dendritic cell?

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Division of Rheumatology, Department of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.
Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


Dendritic cells, macrophages and B cells are regarded as the classical antigen-presenting cells of the immune system. However, in recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the number of cell types that are suggested to present antigens on MHC class II molecules to CD4(+) T cells. In this Review, we describe the key characteristics that define an antigen-presenting cell by examining the functions of dendritic cells. We then examine the functions of the haematopoietic cells and non-haematopoietic cells that can express MHC class II molecules and that have been suggested to represent 'atypical' antigen-presenting cells. We consider whether any of these cell populations can prime naive CD4(+) T cells and, if not, question the effects that they do have on the development of immune responses.

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