Distribution and immunophenotype of mononuclear phagocytes and dendritic cells in the human lung

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 1994 May;10(5):487-92. doi: 10.1165/ajrcmb.10.5.8179911.


Mononuclear phagocytes and dendritic cells (DC) play an important role in the immune response in the lung. DC act in the afferent phase of the immune response by presenting antigen to T cells, while macrophages play a role in the efferent phase by exerting phagocytic/cytotoxic functions. We investigated the localization and the marker pattern of these cells in the human lung. Macrophages, identified as large, rounded, acid phosphatase-positive cells, were mainly detected in the alveolar spaces, in the lumen of the bronch(iol)us, and in the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL). They were positive for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II antigens (DR, DQ), CD68, RFD7, RFD9, and partly positive for RFD1. Irregularly shaped cells with a marker pattern comparable to that of blood-derived DC (positive for DR, DQ, L25, RFD1, and CD68) were predominantly observed in the epithelium and subepithelial tissue of the bronch(iol)us and in the bronchus-associated lymphoid tissue. In the epithelium, approximately 30% of these cells were positive for CD1a (OKT6). In the subepithelial tissue, these DC formed characteristic small clusters with T cells. The BAL, the alveolar spaces, and the alveolar walls contained only a small number of DC. These immunohistologic data suggest that the bronch(iol)us is well equipped to initiate immune responses. The high number of macrophages in the alveolar compartment, which have been described to suppress T cell proliferation, together with low numbers of DC, makes the alveolar compartment less suited for mounting an immune response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Bronchi / cytology
  • Bronchi / immunology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Epithelium / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Lung / cytology*
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lymphoid Tissue / cytology
  • Lymphoid Tissue / immunology
  • Phagocytes / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / cytology
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / immunology


  • Biomarkers