BioLegend Dendritic Cells
Dendritic cells belong to the family of antigen presenting cells (APCs). APCs are key players of the innate immune system and they specialize in the uptake of molecules, pathogens and related material. Once they phagocytose such material, they break it down into small pieces, and present it to stimulate T cells, which promote the adaptive immune response. Dendritic cells have very unique properties that make them the most potent APCs of the immune system.

DCs themselves are a complex population, but thus far, they can be classified as conventional (or classical) DCs (cDCs) or plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs). cDCs are also known as myeloid dendritic cells. Both cDCs and pDCs also contain several specialized subpopulations, but the main difference between cDCs and pDCs is their function.

Although there is a dynamic relationship between cDCs and pDCs, cDCs excel at antigen presentation and T cell stimulation, whereas pDCs are the most potent Type I interferon producing cells known up to date.
Development Maturation Mouse and Human Surface Markers Heterogeneity and
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Dendritic Cells
Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells
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The classical phenotype of mouse DCs is defined by high expression of the integrin CD11c and MHC II molecules. However, as discussed before, several subsets can be defined within this population. However, the subsets can be defined based not just on expression of surface molecules, but also with a specific function that correlates with the surface markers.

For example cDCs can express either CD8 alpha (CD8a) or CD11b. They can also express CD103, which has strong functional implications. CD205, a C-type lectin-like receptor, can define a subset of specialized DCs. Similarly, DCIR2 (dendritic cell inhibitory receptor 2) is associated with specialized functions. Furthermore, the expression of Langerin by Langerhans cells, the skin resident DCs is perhaps the canonical example of specialized subset of DCs.

Likewise, pDCs are defined in mouse by expression of B220, CD317, Ly6C, intermediate levels of CD11c, and lack of markers commonly expressed by lymphocytes, such as CD3, CD19, CD11b and NK cell markers.

Please use the next tab “Build Your Function” to explore the different functions associated with these different DC subtypes.

Skin, Langerin, CD205, CD103, Mucosal Tissue, CD8a, pDC, DCIR2, CD11b

View our interactive Dendritic Cells pathway
Compared to other antigen presenting cells, DCs are the most potent stimulators of naïve T cells. However, before they can exert that important function, they have to undergo a process of morphological and functional changes known as maturation. This includes:

Phenotypic changes: Up-regulation of MHC and co-stimulatory molecules and changes in the pattern of expression of adhesion molecules and chemokine receptors.

Morphological changes: Development of dendrites and cytoskeleton re-organization.

Functional changes: Down-regulation of antigen uptake and secretion of chemokines and cytokines.

Stimuli, Maturation, MHC, CD40, adhesion molecules, CD80, CD86, phagocytosis, chemokines, cytokines, chemokine receptors, motility
A wide range of dendritic cell (DC) subpopulations and subsets exists in both mice and humans. In general, there has been described a functional correlation for several subsets between the two organisms. However, their surface phenotype does not always match:

DC Subpopulation, B220, CD4, CD11c, DEC205, Langerin, MHC II, PDCA-1, Siglec-H, CD8+ cDC, CD8- cDC, CD103+, CD11b-, CD103+, CD11b-, CD103-, CD11b+, Langerhans Cells, pDCs, CD11c, CD141, CD11b, XCR1, CD11c, CD11b, CD1c, Similar subsets are suspected in Human, CD1, CD207, HLA-DR, CD11c, CD123, CD303, CD304, Classical DCs in lymphoid organs, Classical DCs in non-lymphoid organs (mucosa), Classical DCs in the skin, Non-Classical DCs, plasmacytoid DCs

(*) There is still no definitive agreement regarding some subsets, especially in non-lymphoid compartments. For example, mouse mucosal CD11hi MHC IIhi CD11b+ CD103- cells may contain macrophages; co-expression of langerin, CD103 and CD11b is not totally clear. Likewise, a full correlation between mouse and human intestinal DCs still needs to be directly addressed. Please refer to the following papers for further reading:
MDP, CDP, Monocyte, pDC, Pre-DC, cDC, Macrophage
Murine Bone Marrow precursor, Flt3L, cDC, pDC, B220, CD11c, GM-CSF, IL-4

Murine Bone Marrow precursor, Flt3L, cDC, pDC, B220, CD11c, GM-CSF, IL-4
Dendritic cells develop from the common macrophage and dendritic cells precursor (MDP) in the bone marrow. Monocytes and pDCs complete their development in the bone marrow, whereas cDCs will complete their development in peripheral tissues.

Under specific stimuli, both monocytes and pDCs can develop into cDCs. Monocytes can also give rise to macrophages, depending on the environment.
Mouse dendritic cells can be derived in vitro using growth factor/cytokine cocktails, which dictate the DC sub-population that may be derived. GM-CSF and IL-4 will mostly produce cDCs, whereas Flt3L will generate a mixture of cDCs and pDCs.

DCs generated in vitro may have a different maturation state than terminally differentiated DCs that develop in vivo. Maturation of in vitro generated DCs may require additional stimuli, such as TLR stimulation with LPS, CpG and others.
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