• Antigen specificity;
  • Autoimmunity;
  • Modulated DC;
  • PD-L1;
  • Treg


Specific therapy with modulated DC may restore immunological tolerance, thereby obviating the need for chronic immunosuppression in transplantation or autoimmunity. In this study we compared the tolerizing capacity of dexamethasone (Dex)- and 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (VD3)-modulated DC. Treatment of monocytes with either VD3 or Dex resulted in DC with stable, semi-mature phenotypes compared with standard DC, with intermediate levels of co-stimulatory and MHC class II molecules, which remained unaltered after subsequent pro-inflammatory stimulation. IL-12p70 secretion was lost by VD3- and Dex-DC, whereas IL-10 secretion was unaffected. VD3-DC distinctly produced large amounts of TNF-α. Both VD3- and Dex-DC possessed the capacity to convert CD4 T cells into IL-10-secreting Treg potently suppressing the proliferation of responder T cells. However, only Treg induced by VD3-DC exhibited antigen specificity. VD3-, but not Dex-, DC expressed significant high levels of PD-L1 (programmed death-1 ligand), upon activation. Blockade of PD-L1 during priming redirected T cells to produce IFN-γ instead of IL-10 and abolished acquisition of regulatory capacity. Our findings demonstrate that both VD3- and Dex-DC possess durable but differential tolerogenic features, acting via different mechanisms. Both are potentially useful to specifically down-regulate unwanted immune responses and induce immune tolerance. These modulated DC appear suitable as adjuvant in antigen-specific clinical vaccination intervention strategies.