• Tubulo-vesicular structures;
  • MIIC compartments;
  • Maturation;
  • Cancer immunotherapy;
  • Cord blood


Dendritic cells (DCs) are important for the induction of primary T-cell responses and may serve as “biologic adjuvants” in therapeutic protocols. However, given the “plasticity” of this antigen-presenting cell, it remains unclear which DC type (source, subtype, and stage of differentiation) should be applied clinically. To provide additional insight in this selection process, we have, for the first time, analyzed the in vitro differentiation of CD34+ precursor-derived and monocyte-derived DCs for ultrastructure, phenotype, and function. The ultrastructural intracytoplasmic differentiation of DCs correlated with increasing T-cell stimulatory activity of these cells. “Early-stage”-DCs proliferate, exhibit high levels of soluble antigen uptake, and moderate T-cell stimulatory capacity, and are characterized by centrally located nuclei and numerous enlarged mitochondria. “Intermediate-stage”-DCs are enlarged cells with enhanced T-cell stimulatory activity and pronounced cytoplasmic protein synthesis machinery. “Late-stage” (LS)-DCs exhibit a mature secretory cell phenotype and low proliferative index. They express high levels of the HLA-DR, CD40L, B7-1, and B7-2 molecules and CD83, a specific marker of mature DCs, and appear maximally stimulatory to T cells. Ultrastructurally, LS-DCs feature an accentric nucleus, an enlarged cytoplasm, containing numerous secretory storage vesicles, along with a fully developed Golgi complex. LS-DCs exhibited numerous multivesicular and multilaminar structures containing major histocompatibility complex class II molecules, consistent with the MIIC (peptide-loading) compartment. In extended studies, cultured CD14+ monocyte-derived DCs displayed a similar, but accelerated, temporal differentiation staging pattern.