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Blood. 1997 Sep 1;90(5):1920-6.

Human dendritic cells require exogenous interleukin-12-inducing factors to direct the development of naive T-helper cells toward the Th1 phenotype.

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Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Department of Cell Biology & Histology, The Netherlands.


Dendritic cells (DC) are important initiators of specific primary immune responses because they are the only APC that can efficiently activate naive Th cells. DC have the capacity to produce interleukin-12 (IL-12), a cytokine that plays a pivotal role in the development of Th1-mediated cellular immune responses. The present study focuses on the conditions under which human DC produce bioactive IL-12 p70 and, consequently, direct the development of naive T helper (Th) cells toward the Th1 phenotype. Bacteria or bacterial compounds such as Staphylococcus aureus Cowan strain I (SAC) or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced substantial IL-12 levels in DC, which could be further upregulated by interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), whereas induction of IL-12 production via CD40 ligation required IFN-gamma as an obligatory, complementary signal. Also, activated naive Th cells were poor inducers of IL-12 production, unless exogenous IFN-gamma was present, whereas activated memory Th cells were effective inducers of IL-12 production and did not require exogenous IFN-gamma. Next, the cytokine profiles of matured Th cells that were primed by DC under different conditions were examined. DC promoted the development of naive Th cells into memory Th0 cells that produced both the type 1 cytokine IFN-gamma and the type 2 cytokine IL-4. In contrast, after activation with SAC, DC efficiently directed the development of Th1 cells through the release of IL-12. An APC-independent Th cell maturation model, using either recombinant IL-12 or supernatants of SAC-activated DC and neutralizing anti-IL-12 antibodies, confirmed that DC-derived IL-12 was the major Th1 skewing factor. Together, these data indicate that the contact between DC and naive Th cells during the initiation of specific immune responses does not result in the efficient induction of IL-12 production and that, consequently, exogenous IL-12-inducing factors are required to promote primary Th1-mediated cellular immune responses.

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