While epidermis in the skin provides an excellent barrier to the environment, it is an incomplete one. Some antigenic material can penetrate through the stratum corneum (or be introduced pathologically) where strategically placed epidermal Langerhans cells reside. In this review, we have assembled relevant data concerning the antigen presenting potential of epidermal Langerhans cells. Strong circumstantial evidence derived from in vitro studies of epidermal cell suspensions enriched for Langerhans cells indicates that Langerhans cells possess this capability. In vivo studies with intact skin indicate that critical numbers of functioning Langerhans cells are essential for successful induction of contact hypersensitivity by epicutaneously applied haptens. And within the past several months, experiments with purified preparations of epidermal Langerhans cells have proven that these cells, and perhaps they alone among epidermal cells, possess the capacity of processing and presenting haptenic determinants to the immune system. The challenge for the future is to determine the extent to which this unique property of Langerhans cells affords physiologic protection to the skin and under what pathologic circumstances altered Langerhans cell function leads to disease.
- Major Histocompatibility Complex
- Skin Associated Lymphoid Tissues
- Ultraviolet Radiation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy