Dendritic cells (DC) are known for their remarkable ability to induce specific T cell responses. However, the existing views on the role of DC in maintaining tolerance to self-antigens and induction of autoimmunity are somewhat controversial especially when the basic physiology of DC migration, function and homeostasis is considered. This review attempts to provide a comprehensive overview on these topics with particular emphasis on DC homeostasis and presents implications for the generation of pathological autoimmune T cell responses. Furthermore, we advocate the need for a conceptual characterization of the immune system operating in vivo. With particular focus on the contribution of DC, we suggest that a ‘spatiotemporal’ view of the rules for T cell responses (antigen dose and availability, duration and mode of antigen presentation) permits a better understanding of the relevant factors contributing to the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases.
Keywords: dendritic cell, dc homeostasis, self-reactivity, langerhans cells, self-antigen
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