Monocytes have the capacity to differentiate into macrophages or dendritic cells (DCs) after extravasation into lymphoid and nonlymphoid tissues. They have thus been consequently considered as precursors, but not effector cells, recirculating exclusively through the blood. In this report, we demonstrate for the first time that, after subcutaneous injection, activated monocytes migrate through the lymphatics from the dermis into the draining lymph nodes by a CCR7-dependent mechanism. LPS-activated monocytes were less efficient than DCs in stimulating CD4(+) T cells, but unexpectedly, they were highly efficient in inducing antigen-specific CD8(+) T-cell proliferation by cross-presentation, both in vitro and in vivo. Interestingly, CD8(+) T cells stimulated in vivo by activated monocytes expressed a high level of CD62L, suggesting that they had undergone an unconventional activation process. In conclusion, our data strongly support the concept that monocytes can behave not only as precursor cells for macrophages and DCs, but also as effector cells with the capacity to migrate from the periphery to the lymph nodes through the lymph and to cross-present antigens to CD8(+) T cells. These results suggest that monocytes can play an important role in the induction and regulation of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T-cell responses.
© 2012 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.