Langerhans cells (LCs) constitute a subset of DCs that initiate immune responses in skin. Using leprosy as a model, we investigated whether expression of CD1a and langerin, an LC-specific C-type lectin, imparts a specific functional role to LCs. LC-like DCs and freshly isolated epidermal LCs presented nonpeptide antigens of Mycobacterium leprae to T cell clones derived from a leprosy patient in a CD1a-restricted and langerin-dependent manner. LC-like DCs were more efficient at CD1a-restricted antigen presentation than monocyte-derived DCs. LCs in leprosy lesions coexpress CD1a and langerin, placing LCs in position to efficiently present a subset of antigens to T cells as part of the host response to human infectious disease.
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