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J Invest Dermatol. 1996 Mar;106(3):553-8.

Contact allergens and epidermal proinflammatory cytokines modulate Langerhans cell E-cadherin expression in situ.

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National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.A.


After exposure to antigen, Langerhans cells (LC) migrate from the epidermis to lymph nodes, where they initiate primary immune responses in T cells. The adhesion molecule E-cadherin mediates adhesion of LC to keratinocytes in vitro and may be responsible for localization of LC in epidermis. To determine if levels of LC E-cadherin are modulated during LC emigration from epidermis, we utilized flow cytometry to evaluate E-cadherin expression on BALB/c LC exposed in situ to the contact allergen 2,4,6-trinitrochlorobenzene (TNCB). TNCB induced increased I-A/E antigen and decreased E-cadherin expression on a subpopulation of LC as early as 12 h, and as late as 48 h, after application. At 24 h, approximately 30% of LC in TNCB-treated skin expressed increased I-A/E antigens; of these activated LC, approximately 40% expressed decreased levels of E-cadherin. E-cadherin levels on this latter subset were approximately 15% of those expressed by LC in normal skin, and were similar to levels on cultured LC and LC that migrated from skin explants. The effect was specific for allergens; no changes occurred in LC following treatment with several contact irritants or the tolerogen dinitrothiocyanobenzene. To determine if cytokines modulated LC E-cadherin expression, we introduced various cytokines into BALB/c ear skin and assayed I-A/E antigen and E-cadherin levels. Of the cytokines tested, only interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor alpha reproduced the effects of TNCB. We propose that downmodulation of E-cadherin expression occurs as a consequence of local cytokine production during antigen-induced LC activation, facilitating LC emigration and the initiation of immune responses against antigens encountered in epidermis.

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