The Journal of infectious diseases

Human tonsil-derived dendritic cells are poor inducers of T cell immunity to mucosally encountered pathogens.

PMID 24371254


The mucosal immune system must initiate and regulate protective immunity, while balancing this immunity with tolerance to harmless antigens and bacterial commensals. We have explored the hypothesis that mucosal dendritic cells (DC) control the balance between regulation and immunity, by studying the responses of human tonsil-derived DC to Neisseria meningitidis as a model organism. We show that tonsil DC are able to sample their antigenic environment, internalizing Nm and expressing high levels of HLA-DR and CD86. However, in comparison to monocyte-derived DC (moDC), they respond to pathogen encounter with only low level cytokine production, largely dominated by TGFβ. Functionally, tonsil DC also only stimulated low levels of antigen-specific T cell proliferation and cytokine production when compared to moDC. We therefore propose that the default role for DC in the nasopharynx is to maintain tolerance/ignorance of the large volume of harmless antigens and bacterial commensals encountered at the nasopharyngeal mucosa.