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J Immunol. 2010 May 1;184(9):5368-74. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0903662. Epub 2010 Mar 31.

An imbalance of two functionally and phenotypically different subsets of plasmacytoid dendritic cells characterizes the dysfunctional immune regulation in multiple sclerosis.

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Department of Neurology, Clinical Research Group for Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology, University of Wuerzburg, Wuerzburg, Germany.


Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) are instrumental in peripheral T cell tolerance and innate immunity. How pDCs control peripheral immunetolerance and local parenchymal immune response and contribute to the altered immunoregulation in autoimmune disorders in humans is poorly understood. Based on their surface markers, cytokine production, and ability to prime naive allogenic T cells, we found that purified BDCA-2(+)BDCA-4(+) pDCs consist of at least two separate populations, which differed in their response to oligodeoxynucleotides and IFNs (IFN-beta), and differently induced IL-17- or IL-10-producing T cells. To evaluate the potential immunoregulatory role of these two types of pDCs in multiple sclerosis (MS) and other human autoimmune disorders (myasthenia gravis), we studied the phenotype and regulatory function of pDCs isolated from clinically stable, untreated patients with MS (n = 16). Patients with MS showed a reversed ratio of pDC1/pDC2 in peripheral blood (4.4:1 in healthy controls, 0.69:1 in MS), a phenomenon not observed in the other autoimmune disorders. As a consequence, MS pDCs had an overall propensity to prime IL-17-secreting cells over IL-10-secreting CD4+ T cells. Immunomodulatory therapy with IFN-beta induced an increase of the pDC1 population in vivo (n = 5). Our data offer a plausible explanation for the disturbed immune tolerance in MS patients and provide evidence that immunomodulatory therapy acts at the level of reconstituting homeostasis of pDC, thus reconstituting the disturbed balance.

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