Substantial numbers of dendritic cells (DCs) are found in the T-cell areas of peripheral lymphoid organs such as the spleen, lymph node and Peyer's patch. By electron microscopy these DCs (also called interdigitating cells) form a network through which T-cells continually recirculate. The cytological features of DCs in the T-cell areas, as well as a number of markers detected with monoclonal antibodies, are similar to mature DCs that develop from other sites such as skin and bone marrow. Some markers that are expressed in abundance are: MHC II and the associated invariant chain, accessory molecules such as CD40 and CD86, a multilectin receptor for antigen presentation called DEC-205, the integrin CD11c, several antigens within the endocytic system that are detected by monoclonal antibodies but are as yet uncharacterized at the molecular level, and, in the human system, molecules termed S100b, CD83 and p55. DCs in the periphery can pick up antigens and migrate to the T-cell areas to initiate immunity. However, there are new observations that DCs within the T-cell areas also express high levels of self-antigens and functional fas-ligand capable of inducing CD4+ T-cell death. We speculate that there are at least 2 sets of DCs in the T-cell areas, a migratory myeloid pathway that brings in antigens from the periphery and induces immunity, and a more resident lymphoid pathway that presents self-antigens and maintains tolerance.