Antigen presentation in the lung: dendritic cells and macrophages

Sarcoidosis Vasc Diffuse Lung Dis. 2000 Oct;17(3):246-55.


Antigen presentation is a required prime event before T-cell activation can occur. Cells which constitutively express major histocompatibility antigen class I or II are responsible for presenting antigens. These are essentially alveolar macrophages (AM) residing mostly in the air spaces, and dendritic cells (DC), which create a tight surveillance network just below the epithelial cells of the airways and in the loose connective tissue around the vessels or in the pleura. AM are poor antigen presenting cells compared to DC. AM when encountering foreign particles or organisms may, however, influence the degree of activity or maturation of neighbouring DC, by releasing cytokines. Thus, we will describe how the innate immune processes may influence specific immunity and perhaps Th1 and Th2 differentiation. Following the description of the differences in phenotype and functions of AM and DC, we will provide data showing that in some pathological conditions, such as sarcoidosis, AM can acquire some specificities of DC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / physiology*
  • Lung Diseases / immunology*
  • Lung Diseases / pathology*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / immunology*
  • Male
  • Sensitivity and Specificity