Tumor microenvironment converts plasmacytoid dendritic cells into immunosuppressive/tolerogenic cells: insight into the molecular mechanisms

J Leukoc Biol. 2013 Mar;93(3):343-52. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0812397. Epub 2012 Nov 7.


Human pDCs represent a rare population of circulating cells characterized by a rapid and massive TLR-dependent secretion of type I IFN in response to pathogenic agents or danger signals. Through their capacity to bring together innate and adaptive immunity and to secrete soluble factors controlling cancer development, these cells could represent important actors in antitumor immunity. However, accumulating evidence suggests that pDCs recruited to the tumor microenvironment often display a nonactivated state and are associated with the development and maintenance of immunosuppression. Here, we present an overview of neoplastic lesions associated with an infiltration of immunosuppressive/tolerogenic pDC. Moreover, as the proper response of pDC against cancer depends on a critical balance between immune-activating and immune-suppressing mechanisms, we summarize current knowledge about the molecular pathways developed by tumors to prevent antitumoral pDC immune responses. A better understanding of the mechanisms regulating pDC function in tumors could aid in the development of new therapies. Indeed, effective cancer vaccines or therapies could combine immunoactivating strategies (i.e., TLR agonists) with elimination of immune-suppressing mechanisms, leading to pDC reprogramming and thus, allowing tumor rejection in a clinical setting.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cancer Vaccines / immunology
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance*
  • Interferon Type I / immunology
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Plasma Cells / immunology*
  • Plasma Cells / pathology
  • Tumor Escape*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*


  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Interferon Type I