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Keywords:

  • Dendritic cells;
  • liver;
  • tolerance;
  • transplantation

Human dendritic cell (DC) subsets appear to play distinct roles in the induction and regulation of immune responses. While monocytoid DC (DC1) induce T-helper (Th) 1-type responses, plasmacytoid DC (DC2) have been reported to selectively induce Th2 responses. In blood, their precursors (p) can be identified as HLA-DR+ lineage cells that are further characterized as CD11c+ CD123–/lo (IL-3Rα–/lo) (pDC1) or as CD11c CD123hi (pDC2) by rare event, flow cytometric analysis. We compared the incidences of pDC1 and pDC2 in peripheral blood mononuclear cell populations isolated from normal healthy controls and from 3 groups of clinically stable liver transplant patients. Group A had been successfully withdrawn from immunosuppression, whereas group B were undergoing prospective drug weaning and on minimal anti-rejection therapy. In group C, drug withdrawal had either failed or never been attempted and patients were on maintenance immunosuppression. Assessment of DC subsets and the pDC2 : pDC1 ratio showed good intra-and interassay reproducibility. Compared with patients in group C, those in groups A and B demonstrated a significantly higher relative incidence of pDC2 and a lower incidence of pDC1 – similar to those values observed in normal healthy controls. Moreover, the pDC2 : pDC1 ratio was significantly higher in patients undergoing (successful) weaning and in those off immunosuppression compared with patients on maintenance immunosuppression.