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Ciba Found Symp. 1997;204:130-8; discussion 138-41.

Dendritic cells and T lymphocytes: developmental and functional interactions.

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Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Victoria, Australia.


Dendritic cells (DCs) are specialized for presentation of antigen to T cells and are essential for primary T cell activation. Although DCs are generally considered to be myeloid derived, we now have evidence that a subgroup are of lymphoid origin. In particular, the DCs of the adult mouse thymus appear to be derived from the same early, lymphoid-restricted precursor cells that generate T lymphocytes. Purified early thymic T precursors have the capacity to produce T cells, B cells, NK cells and DCs, but not myeloid cells, on transfer to irradiated recipients. They also produce thymic DCs on culture with a mix of cytokines; this mix does not include GM-CSF, needed to generate myeloid-derived DCs. A subgroup of DCs in other lymphoid organs, which like thymic DCs express CD8 as an alpha alpha homodimer, may likewise be of lymphoid origin. These CD8+ DCs in mouse spleen differ functionally from the conventional CD8+ DCs. CD8+ DCs efficiently activate CD4+ T cells but then kill them via Fas ligand on the DC surface. CD8+ DCs efficiently recruit CD8+ T cells into the cell cycle, but their proliferation is then restricted by an inadequate production of interleukin 2. This subgroup of CD8+ DCs therefore appears to have a regulatory role.

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