Dendritic cells - their name is derived from the large amount of
dendrites on their cell surface - populate most parts of the human body.
There they act as guards by recognizing, engulfing, and processing
foreign pathogens. Finally, those dendritic cells migrate to nearby
lymph nodes, where they interact with other immune cells to trigger a
pathogen-specific immune response.
Consequently, dendritic cells play an
important role within the complex immune system. In recent years, it
became evident that in the mouse dendritic cells are composed of
different subtypes, which differ in function and distribution across the
body. In contrast, less was known about the corresponding situation in
‘The surface profiles of dendritic cells of the same subtype are constant throughout the different tissues. This finding could help develop innovative therapies targeting the immune system.’
Scientists of the University
Hospital Erlangen of the Friedrich-Alexander-University
Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and the LIMES (Life and Medical Sciences)
Institute of the University of Bonn gained substantial knowledge of
human dendritic cells, which might contribute to the development of
immune therapies in the future. The results were recently published in
the Journal Science Immunology
Recently, Dr. Gordon Heidkamp and Prof. Dr. Diana Dudziak from the
University Hospital Erlangen performed a global study, which, for the
first time, systematically characterized dendritic cells in different
human organs such as blood, spleen, thymus, tonsils, bone marrow, cord
blood. Using 16-color flow cytometry, they detected different dendritic
cell subtypes, determined their distribution across the various organs
and identified important cell surface proteins. As a result, the
scientists revealed that the surface profiles of dendritic cells of the
same subtype are constant throughout the different tissues.
Additionally, the scientists from Erlangen isolated dendritic cells
from human blood, spleen, and thymus and analyzed their genetic
information in the form of ribonucleic acid (RNA). The complex data
analysis was performed in close collaboration with Jil Sander and Prof.
Dr. Joachim L. Schultze from the LIMES Institute of the University of
Using innovative methods, for example Cibersort analysis, they
were able to imposingly demonstrate that the different subtypes share a
constant profile, regardless of their initial location. Prof. Dr.
Schultze: "In contrast, our data further demonstrate that within
non-lymphatic organs such as lungs and skin, tissue-specific signals
have a higher impact on the transcriptional output of dendritic cells."
According to these recently published findings and due to the
special characteristics of dendritic cells, the scientists expect
substantial impacts on the therapy of immune diseases as well as on the
development of new approaches to treat tumors. Prof. Dudziak summarizes:
"There is evidence that dendritic cells might play a crucial role for
the development of innovative therapies targeting the immune system. Our
results help to understand the fundamental characteristics of dendritic
The study was conducted in a close collaboration between Dr. Gordon
Heidkamp and Prof. Dr. Diana Dudziak from the University Hospital
Erlangen and Jil Sander and Prof. Dr. Joachim L. Schultze from the LIMES
Institute of the University of Bonn. The latter are members of the
excellence cluster ImmunoSensation. In total, 31 scientists were
involved in this project, located in Erlangen, Bonn, Kiel, Bamberg,
Augsburg, Frankfurt, and Singapore.