Acta Neuropathologica

, Volume 124, Issue 5, pp 599–614 | Cite as

Brain dendritic cells: biology and pathology

  • Paul M. D’Agostino
  • Andres Gottfried-Blackmore
  • Niroshana Anandasabapathy
  • Karen Bulloch


Dendritic cells (DC) are the professional antigen-presenting cells of the immune system. In their quiescent and mature form, the presentation of self‐antigens by DC leads to tolerance; whereas, antigen presentation by mature DC, after stimulation by pathogen‐associated molecular patterns, leads to the onset of antigen-specific immunity. DC have been found in many of the major organs in mammals (e.g. skin, heart, lungs, intestines and spleen); while the brain has long been considered devoid of DC in the absence of neuroinflammation. Consequently, microglia, the resident immune cell of the brain, have been charged with many functional attributes commonly ascribed to DC. Recent evidence has challenged the notion that DC are either absent or minimal players in brain immune surveillance. This review will discuss the recent literature examining DC involvement within both the young and aged steady-state brain. We will also examine DC contributions during various forms of neuroinflammation resulting from neurodegenerative autoimmune disease, injury, and CNS infections. This review also touches upon DC trafficking between the central nervous system and peripheral immune compartments during viral infections, the new molecular technologies that could be employed to enhance our current understanding of brain DC ontogeny, and some potential therapeutic uses of DC within the CNS.


Dendritic cells Steady-state Neuroinflammation Pathogens 



We would like to thank Dr. Judit Gal Toth and Haley A. Vecchiarelli for contributing images used as figures in this review and for their comments and suggestions. Additionally, we are grateful to Drs. Bruce S. McEwen, Richard Hunter, and James M. Miller, as well as Changsoo Kwak and Zahrah Masheeb for their valuable recommendations. This work was supported by the Peter Deane Trust (K.B.).

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicting financial interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul M. D’Agostino
    • 1
  • Andres Gottfried-Blackmore
    • 1
  • Niroshana Anandasabapathy
    • 2
  • Karen Bulloch
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.The Laboratory of NeuroendocrinologyThe Rockefeller UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.The Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and ImmunologyThe Rockefeller UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.The Laboratory of Molecular ImmunologyThe Rockefeller UniversityNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Neuroimmunology and Inflammation ProgramThe Rockefeller UniversityNew YorkUSA

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