A novel, antigen-presenting function of melanocytes and its possible relationship to hypopigmentary disorders

I. Caroline Le Poole, Tuna Mutis, René M J G J Van Den Wijngaard, Wiete Westerhof, Tom Ottenhoff, René R P De Vries, Pranab K. Das

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It is now well established that cultured human melanocytes are capable of expressing immunologically important cell surface molecules and that they can produce cytokines. Not all cells with the ability to express MHC class II molecules are capable of effective Ag presentation. However, the dendritic nature of melanocytes, their strategic position within the skin, and their phagocytic capacity seem to suggest a role for these cells in processing and presenting Ag. This study demonstrates that cultured normal human skin melanocytes can present peptide Ag, and process and present the mycobacterial HSP65 kDa protein and whole Mycobacterium leprae sonicate to CD4+ cytotoxic proliferative T cell clones in an Ag-specific and HLA-class II-restricted manner. T cell stimulation was dependent on costimulatory signals, i.e., LFA-3/CD2 and LFA-1/ICAM-1. Besides eliciting a T cell proliferative response our studies further demonstrate that melanocytes can function as target cells for T cell-mediated cytotoxicity. The described Ag-processing and -presenting functions of melanocytes, taken together with in vivo behavior of melanocytes in hypopigmentation, provide new clues for the etiopathogenesis of melanin pigmentary disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7284-7292
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 1993

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