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Dendritic Cells

Unleashing the hidden potential of dendritic cells: Discover the key role they play in our immune system and the groundbreaking research that could revolutionize disease treatments.

Dendritic Cells


Dendritic cells (DCs) are a vital component of the immune system. They are specialized antigen-presenting cells (APCs) that play a crucial role in initiating and modulating immune responses. This article provides an overview of dendritic cells, including their types, functions, development, and clinical significance.

Table of Contents

  • Types of Dendritic Cells
  • Functions
  • Development
  • Clinical Significance

Types of Dendritic Cells

Conventional Dendritic Cells (cDCs)

Conventional dendritic cells (cDCs) are the most common type of DCs found in tissues. They are further divided into two subsets:

  1. cDC1: These DCs express CD8α in mice and CD141 (BDCA-3) in humans. They are involved in cross-presentation of antigens from infected cells, leading to CD8+ T cell activation and cytotoxic immune responses.
  2. cDC2: These DCs express CD11b in mice and CD1c (BDCA-1) in humans. They primarily induce CD4+ T cell activation and promote humoral immune responses.

Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells (pDCs)

Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) are specialized in producing type I interferons (IFNs) in response to viral infections. They express CD123 and Toll-like receptors (TLRs) such as TLR7 and TLR9.


  1. Antigen Capture: Dendritic cells capture antigens through various mechanisms, including phagocytosis, receptor-mediated endocytosis, and macropinocytosis.
  2. Antigen Processing and Presentation: DCs process antigens into peptide fragments and present them on major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules to T cells, initiating adaptive immune responses.
  3. Co-stimulation: DCs provide co-stimulatory signals to T cells, promoting their activation and proliferation.
  4. Cytokine Production: DCs secrete a wide range of cytokines that influence T cell differentiation and effector functions.
  5. Tolerance Induction: Certain DC subsets contribute to immune tolerance by inducing regulatory T cells (Tregs) and dampening immune responses.


Dendritic cells originate from hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) in the bone marrow. The differentiation and development of DCs involve several steps:

  1. Commitment: Common myeloid progenitors (CMPs) give rise to DC-committed progenitors.
  2. Differentiation: DC-committed progenitors differentiate into pre-dendritic cells (pre-DCs) in response to specific growth factors such as FLT3 ligand (FLT3L).
  3. Migration and Maturation: Pre-DCs migrate to peripheral tissues, where they undergo maturation and acquire the ability to capture and present antigens.

Clinical Significance


Dendritic cells hold great potential for immunotherapy approaches. They can be loaded with tumor antigens ex vivo and reinfused into patients to stimulate anti-tumor immune responses.

Autoimmune Diseases

Dysregulation of dendritic cell function has been implicated in various autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and systemic lupus erythematosus.

Infectious Diseases

Understanding dendritic cell interactions with pathogens is crucial for developing vaccines and therapeutic strategies against infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria.


Dendritic cell-based cancer vaccines aim to harness the immune system against tumors. Approaches such as dendritic cell vaccination and adoptive transfer of antigen-loaded DCs are being explored in cancer immunotherapy.


Dendritic cells play a pivotal role in orchestrating immune responses and maintaining immune homeostasis. Understanding their biology and functions provides valuable insights for developing novel immunotherapies and combating various diseases.

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