Background: The clarification of cutaneous dendritic cell subset and the role of thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) signaling in epicutaneous sensitization with protein antigens, as in the development of atopic dermatitis, is a crucial issue. Objectives: Because TSLP is highly expressed in the vicinity of Langerhans cells (LCs), we sought to clarify our hypothesis that LCs play an essential role in epicutaneous sensitization with protein antigens through TSLP signaling. Methods: By using Langerin-diphtheria toxin receptor knock-in mice and human Langerin-diphtheria toxin A transgenic mice, we prepared mice deficient in LCs. We also prepared mice deficient in TSLP receptors in LCs by using TSLP receptor-deficient mice with bone marrow chimeric technique. We applied these mice to an ovalbumin (OVA)-induced epicutaneous sensitization model. Results: Upon the epicutaneous application of OVA, conditional LC depletion attenuated the development of clinical manifestations as well as serum OVA-specific IgE increase, OVA-specific T-cell proliferation, and IL-4 mRNA expression in the draining lymph nodes. Consistently, even in the steady state, permanent LC depletion resulted in decreased serum IgE levels, suggesting that LCs mediate the TH2 local environment. In addition, mice deficient in TSLP receptors on LCs abrogated the induction of OVA-specific IgE levels upon epicutaneous OVA sensitization. Conclusion: LCs initiate epicutaneous sensitization with protein antigens and induce TH2-type immune responses via TSLP signaling.
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