Human epidermal Langerhans cells lack functional mannose receptors and a fully developed endosomal/lysosomal compartment for loading of HLA class II molecules

Eur J Immunol. 1999 Feb;29(2):571-80. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1521-4141(199902)29:02<571::AID-IMMU571>3.0.CO;2-E.


Langerhans cells (LC) represent the dendritic cell (DC) lineage in the epidermis. They capture and process antigens in the skin and subsequently migrate to the draining lymph nodes to activate naive T cells. Efficient uptake and processing of protein antigens by LC would, therefore, seem a prerequisite. We have now compared the capacity of human epidermal LC, blood-derived DC and peripheral blood mononuclear cells to endocytose and present (mannosylated) antigens to antigen-specific T cells. Moreover, we have determined the expression of mannose receptors, and the composition of the intracellular endosomal/lysosomal MHC class II-positive compartment. The results indicate that LC have poor endocytic capacity and do not exploit mannose receptor-mediated endocytosis pathways. Furthermore, the composition of the class II compartment in LC is distinct from that in other antigen-presenting cells and is characterized by the presence of relatively low levels of lysosomal markers. These results underscore the unique properties of LC and indicate that LC are relatively inefficient in antigen uptake, processing and presentation. This may serve to avoid hyper-responsiveness to harmless protein antigens that are likely to be frequently encountered in the skin due to (mechanical) skin damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigen Presentation
  • Cell Compartmentation / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / ultrastructure
  • Endocytosis / immunology*
  • Endosomes / immunology
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Epidermis / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Lectins, C-Type*
  • Lysosomes / immunology
  • Mannose-Binding Lectins*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Mannose-Binding Lectins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • mannose receptor