Leishmaniasis, contact hypersensitivity and graft-versus-host disease: Understanding the role of dendritic cell subsets in balancing skin immunity and tolerance
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Dendritic cells (DC) are key elements of the immune system. In peripheral tissues, they function as sentinels taking up and processing antigens. After migration to the draining lymph nodes, the DC either present antigenic peptides by themselves or transfer them to lymph node-resident DC. The skin is the primary interface between the body and the environment and host's various DC subsets, including dermal DC (dDC) and Langerhans cells (LC). Because of their anatomical position in the epidermis, LC are believed to be responsible for induction of adaptive cutaneous immune responses. The functions of LC and dDC in the skin immune system in vivo are manifold, and it is still discussed controversially whether the differentiation of T-cell subtypes (e.g. effector T cells and regulatory T cells) may be initiated by distinct DC subtypes. As skin DC are able to promote or downmodulate immune responses, we chose different skin diseases (cutaneous leishmaniasis, contact hypersensitivity, UV radiation-induced suppression, and graft-versus-host disease) to describe the biological interactions between different DC subtypes and T cells that lead to the development of efficient or unwanted immune responses. A detailed knowledge about the immune modulatory capacity of different cutaneous DC subsets might be helpful to specifically target these cells through the skin during therapeutic interventions.