Macrophages, dendritic cells and T lymphocytes in rat buccal mucosa and dental pulp following 5-fluorouracil treatment

Eur J Oral Sci. 1999 Jun;107(3):194-201. doi: 10.1046/j.0909-8836.1999.eos1070306.x.


Cancer chemotherapeutic drugs may affect immunocompetent cells of oral soft tissues, causing an impaired capacity to induce immune defence reactions. This study was designed to investigate changes in the number of macrophages, dendritic cells and T lymphocytes in the oral mucosa and dental pulp following treatment with the antineoplastic agent 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). Rats were given 5-FU (30 mg/kg or 50 mg/kg) i.v. on days 0, 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7. The number of cells in buccal epithelium and dental pulp expressing ED2, MHC class II, or CD2 molecules was analyzed following immunohistochemical peroxidase staining. Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules were analyzed in epithelial sheets and in epithelial cell suspensions by flow cytometry. Increasing concentrations of 5-FU changed the morphology of the epithelial Langerhans cells with a reduced dendritic appearance as the most prominent feature. At 50 mg/kg of 5-FU, the oral epithelium detached from the connective tissue at the basement membrane. MHC class II molecule-expressing cells were reduced in number in the lamina propria of the buccal mucosa and in the dental pulp after both low and high dose of 5-FU, but only after high dose in the epithelium. The number of ED2- and CD2-expressing cells in the dental pulp was only slightly reduced by 5-FU treatment at both low and high dose, while these cells decreased in number in the oral mucosa. The varying sensitivity to 5-FU by macrophages, dendritic cells, and T cells depending on the tissues in which they reside may be due to differences in cell origin or differences in antigenic load.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Surface / analysis
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Basement Membrane / drug effects
  • CD2 Antigens / analysis
  • Cell Count / drug effects
  • Cell Lineage / drug effects
  • Connective Tissue / drug effects
  • Dendritic Cells / drug effects*
  • Dental Pulp / drug effects*
  • Dental Pulp / immunology
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Female
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Fluorouracil / pharmacology*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / analysis
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Langerhans Cells / drug effects
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Mouth Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Mouth Mucosa / immunology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • CD2 Antigens
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Fluorouracil