The C-type lectin langerin/CD207 was originally discovered as a specific marker for epidermal Langerhans cells (LC). Recently, additional and distinct subsets of langerin(+) dendritic cells (DC) have been identified in lymph nodes and peripheral tissues of mice. Although the role of LC for immune activation or modulation is now being discussed controversially, other langerin(+) DC appear crucial for protective immunity in a growing set of infection and vaccination models. In knock-in mice that express the human diphtheria toxin receptor under control of the langerin promoter, injection of diphtheria toxin ablates LC for several weeks whereas other langerin(+) DC subsets are replenished within just a few days. Thus, by careful timing of diphtheria toxin injections selective states of deficiency in either LC only or all langerin(+) cells can be established. Taking advantage of this system, we found that, unlike selective LC deficiency, ablation of all langerin(+) DC abrogated the activation of IFN-gamma producing and cytolytic CD8(+) T cells after gene gun vaccination. Moreover, we identified migratory langerin(+) dermal DC as the subset that directly activated CD8(+) T cells in lymph nodes. Langerin(+) DC were also critical for IgG1 but not IgG2a Ab induction, suggesting differential polarization of CD4(+) T helper cells by langerin(+) or langerin-negative DC, respectively. In contrast, protein vaccines administered with various adjuvants induced IgG1 independently of langerin(+) DC. Taken together, these findings reflect a highly specialized division of labor between different DC subsets both with respect to Ag encounter as well as downstream processes of immune activation. The Journal of Immunology, 2011, 186: 1377-1383.
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