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Langerhans cells (LCs) are professional antigen-presenting cells (APCs) residing in the epidermis. Despite their high potential to activate T lymphocytes, current understanding of human LC biology is limited. Genome-wide comparison of the transcriptional profiles of human skin migratory CD1a+ LCs and CD11c+ dermal dendritic cells (DDCs) demonstrated significant differences between these "dendritic cell (DC)" types, including preferential expression of 625 genes (P<0.05) in LC and 914 genes (P<0.05) in DDC. Analysis of the temporal regulation of molecular networks activated after stimulation with tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) confirmed the unique molecular signature of LCs. Although LCs conformed to the phenotype of professional APC, inflammatory signaling activated primarily genes associated with cellular metabolism and mitochondrial activation (e.g., CYB561 and MRPS35), cell membrane re-organization, and antigen acquisition and degradation (CAV1 and PSMD14; P<0.05-P<0.0001). Conversely, TNF-α induced classical activation in DDCs with early downregulation of surface receptors (mannose receptor-1 (MRC1) and C-type lectins), and subsequent upregulation of cytokines, chemokines (IL1a, IL1b, and CCL18), and matrix metalloproteinases (MMP1, MMP3, and MMP9; P<0.05-P<0.0001). Functional interference of caveolin abrogated LCs superior ability to cross-present antigens to CD8+ T lymphocytes, highlighting the importance of these networks to biological function. Taken together, these observations support the idea of distinct biological roles of cutaneous DC types.

Original publication




Journal article


The Journal of investigative dermatology

Publication Date





695 - 703


Clinical and Experimental Sciences, Sir Henry Wellcome Laboratories, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK. Electronic address:


Epidermis, Antigen-Presenting Cells, Dendritic Cells, Langerhans Cells, T-Lymphocytes, Skin, Dermis, Humans, Antigens, CD1, Cell Movement, Gene Expression Regulation, Caveolin 1, Transcriptome, CD11c Antigen, Epidermal Cells