The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology

Skin dendritic cells induce follicular helper T cells and protective humoral immune responses.

PMID 25962902


The contribution of individual subsets of dendritic cells (DCs) to generation of adaptive immunity is central to understanding immune homeostasis and protective immune responses. We sought to define functions for steady-state skin DCs. We present an approach in which we restrict antigen presentation to individual DC subsets in the skin and monitor the effects on endogenous antigen-specific CD4(+) T- and B-cell responses. Presentation of foreign antigen by Langerhans cells (LC) in the absence of exogenous adjuvant led to a large expansion of T follicular helper (TFH) cells. This was accompanied by B-cell activation, germinal center formation, and protective antibody responses against influenza. The expansion of TFH cells and antibody responses could be elicited by both systemic and topical skin immunization. TFH cell induction was not restricted to LCs and occurred in response to antigen presentation by CD103(+) dermal DCs. CD103(+) DCs, despite inducing similar TFH responses as LCs, were less efficient in induction of germinal center B cells and humoral immune responses. We also found that skin DCs are sufficient to expand CXCR5(+) TFH cells through an IL-6- and IFN-α/β receptor-independent mechanism, but B cells were required for sustained Bcl-6(+) expression. These data demonstrate that a major unappreciated function of skin DCs is their promotion of TFH cells and humoral immune responses that potentially represent an efficient approach for vaccination.