Toll-like receptor expression and function in human dendritic cell subsets: implications for dendritic cell-based anti-cancer immunotherapy

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2010 Oct;59(10):1573-82. doi: 10.1007/s00262-010-0833-1. Epub 2010 Mar 5.


Dendritic cells (DCs) are central players of the immune response. To date, DC-based immunotherapy is explored worldwide in clinical vaccination trials with cancer patients, predominantly with ex vivo-cultured monocyte-derived DCs (moDCs). However, the extensive culture period and compounds required to differentiate them into DCs may negatively affect their immunological potential. Therefore, it is attractive to consider alternative DC sources, such as blood DCs. Two major types of naturally occurring DCs circulate in peripheral blood, myeloid DCs (mDCs) and plasmacytoid (pDCs). These DC subsets express different surface molecules and are suggested to have distinct functions. Besides scavenging pathogens and presenting antigens, DCs secrete cytokines, all of which is vital for both the acquired and the innate immune system. These immunological functions relate to Toll-like receptors (TLRs) expressed by DCs. TLRs recognize pathogen-derived products and subsequently provoke DC maturation, antigen presentation and cytokine secretion. However, not every TLR is expressed on each DC subset nor causes the same effects when activated. Considering the large amount of clinical trials using DC-based immunotherapy for cancer patients and the decisive role of TLRs in DC maturation, this review summarizes TLR expression in different DC subsets in relation to their function. Emphasis will be given to the therapeutic potential of TLR-matured DC subsets for DC-based immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / transplantation
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Toll-Like Receptors / metabolism*


  • Toll-Like Receptors