The intestine presents a huge surface area to the outside environment, a property that is of critical importance for its key functions in nutrient digestion, absorption, and waste disposal. As such, the intestine is constantly exposed to dietary and microbial-derived foreign antigens, to which immune cells within the mucosa must suitably respond to maintain intestinal integrity, while also providing the ability to mount effective immune responses to potential pathogens. Dendritic cells (DCs) are sentinel immune cells that play a central role in the initiation and differentiation of adaptive immune responses. In the intestinal mucosa, DCs are located diffusely throughout the intestinal lamina propria, within gut-associated lymphoid tissues, including Peyer's patches and smaller lymphoid aggregates, as well as in intestinal-draining lymph nodes, including mesenteric lymph nodes. The recognition that dietary nutrients and microbial communities in the intestine influence both mucosal and systemic immune cell development and function as well as immune-mediated disease has led to an explosion of literature in mucosal immunology in recent years and a growing interest in the functionality of intestinal DCs. In the current review, we discuss recent findings from our group and others that have provided important insights regarding murine and human intestinal lamina propria DCs and highlighted marked developmental and functional heterogeneity within this compartment. A thorough understanding of the role these subsets play in the regulation of intestinal immune homeostasis and inflammation will help to define novel strategies for the treatment of intestinal pathologies and contribute to improved rational design of mucosal vaccines.
Immunological Reviews, 2014, Vol 260, Issue 1, p. 86-101