Dendritic cells (DC) are special subsets of antigen presenting cells characterized by their potent capacity to activate immunologically naive T cells. By subtracting the mRNAs expressed by the mouse epidermus-derived DC line XS52 with the mRNAs expressed by the J774 macrophage line, we identified five novel genes that were expressed selectively by this DC line. One of these genes encoded a type II membrane-integrated polypeptide of 244 amino acids containing a putative carbohydrate recognition domain motif at the COOH-terminal end. This molecule, termed 'dectin-1,' was expressed abundantly at both mRNA and protein levels by the XS52 DC line, but not by non-DC lines (including the J774 macrophage line). Dectin-1 mRNA was detected predominantly in spleen and thymus (by Northern blotting) and in skin- resident DC, i.e. Langerhans cells (by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction). Affinity-purified antibody against dectin-1 identified a 43kDa glycoprotein in membrane fractions isolated from the XS52 DC line and from the dectin-1 cDNA-transfected COS-1 cells. His-tagged recombinant proteins containing the extracellular domains of dectin-1 showed marked and specific binding to the surface oft cells and promoted their proliferation in the presence of anti-CD3 monoclonal antibody at suboptimal concentrations. These in vitro results suggest that dectin-1 on DC may bind to as yet undefined ligand(s) on T cells, thereby delivering T cell co-stimulatory signals. Not only do these results document the efficacy of subtractive cDNA cloning for the identification of unique genes expressed by DC, they also provide a framework for studying the physiological function of dectin-1.
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