Mucosal dendritic cells (DCs) constantly survey the luminal microenvironment which contains commensal microbiota and potentially harmful organisms regulating pathogen recognition and adaptive as well as innate defense activation. Distinct mechanisms are beginning to emerge by which intestinal antigen sampling and handling is achieved ensuring specificity and contributing to redundancy in pathogen detection. Distinct DC subsets are associated with these mechanisms and regulate specific innate or adaptive immune responses to help distinguish between commensal microbiota, pathogens and self antigens. Understanding DC biology in the mucosal immune system may contribute to the unraveling of infection routes of intestinal pathogens and may aid in developing novel vaccines and therapeutic strategies for the treatment of infectious and inflammatory diseases.
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