Human blood contains two subsets of dendritic cells, one immunologically mature and the other immature

U. O'Doherty, M. Peng, S. Gezelter, W. J. Swiggard, M. Betjes, N. Bhardwaj, R. M. Steinman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

571 Scopus citations


Two subsets of dendritic cells, differing in T-cell stimulatory function, have been purified directly from human blood. Both subsets are positive for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II expression and negative for lineage-specific antigens (e.g. CD3, CD14, CD16, CD19 negative),, but are separated by exploiting differences in expression of the β2-integrin, CD11c. The CD11c-negative subset is functionally immature, requiring monocyte-derived cytokines to develop into typical dendritic cells. The CD11c-positive subset has potent T-cell stimulating activity and expresses the activation antigen CD45RO, unlike its immature counterpart. However, these mature cells only develop typical dendritic morphology and high levels of MHC proteins and adhesins after a period of culture independent of exogenous cytokines. Although the freshly isolated mature dendritic cells resemble monocytes in cytospin preparations, the former lack CD14 and have a much stronger primary T-cell stimulatory capacity. We hypothesize that the CD11c-negative immature cells are marrow-derived precursors to tissue dendritic cells, such as epidermal Langerhans' cells, while the CD11c-positive cells are derived from tissues where they have been activated by antigen, and are en route to the spleen or lymph nodes to stimulate T-cell responses there.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-493
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes


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