Dendritic Cells: Sentinels of Immunity and Tolerance
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The induction of effective antigen-specific T-cell immunity to pathogens without the initiation of autoimmunity has evolved as a sophisticated and highly balanced immunoregulatory mechanism. This mechanism assures the generation of antigen-specific effector cells as well as the induction and maintenance of antigen-specific tolerance to self-structures of the body. As professional antigen-presenting cells of the immune system, dendritic cells (DC) are ideally positioned throughout the entire body and equipped with a unique capability to transport antigens from the periphery to lymphoid tissues. There is growing evidence that DC, besides their well-known immunostimulatory properties, also induce and regulate T-cell tolerance in the periphery. This regulatory function of DC is strictly dependent on their different stages of maturation and activation. Additionally, immunosuppressive agents and cytokines further influence the functions of maturing DC. The regulatory properties of DC include induction of T-cell anergy, apoptosis, and the generation of T-cells with regulatory capacities. This brief review summarizes the current knowledge about the immunoregulatory role of DC as guardians for the induction of T-cell immunity and tolerance.