Atypical MHC class II-expressing antigen-presenting cells: can anything replace a dendritic cell?

Nat Rev Immunol. 2014 Nov;14(11):719-30. doi: 10.1038/nri3754. Epub 2014 Oct 17.


Dendritic cells, macrophages and B cells are regarded as the classical antigen-presenting cells of the immune system. However, in recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the number of cell types that are suggested to present antigens on MHC class II molecules to CD4(+) T cells. In this Review, we describe the key characteristics that define an antigen-presenting cell by examining the functions of dendritic cells. We then examine the functions of the haematopoietic cells and non-haematopoietic cells that can express MHC class II molecules and that have been suggested to represent 'atypical' antigen-presenting cells. We consider whether any of these cell populations can prime naive CD4(+) T cells and, if not, question the effects that they do have on the development of immune responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigen Presentation / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Basophils / immunology
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Eosinophils / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Mast Cells / immunology
  • Neutrophils / immunology


  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Immunoglobulin E