Full activation of T lymphocytes by dendritic cells (DC) during antigen presentation is known to require the interaction of several inducible receptor–ligand pairs. We have postulated that the reciprocal activation of DC by T lymphocytes is also important. Potential signalling molecules that might increase the stimulatory capacity of DC during antigen presentation to T lymphocytes were tested using an in vitro model. Fresh human blood DC were cocultured with CD4+ and CD8+ allogeneic or with autologous T lymphocytes plus Staphylococcus superantigen A (SEA). Surprisingly, costimulator expression on DC cocultured with T lymphocytes was reduced in comparison to DC cultured alone. However, the minority (10–30%) of DC clustering with T lymphocytes showed antigen-specific up-regulation of the CD40, CD80 and CD86 costimulator molecules, whereas the non-clustered DC (70–90%) had less up-regulation than control DC cultured alone and did not respond to antigen-specific triggering. Monoclonal antibodies (mAb) to CD40 ligand (CD40L) and human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-DR, but not lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1), LFA-3 or HLA-class I, significantly inhibited the T-lymphocyte induction of DC costimulator expression. Since HLA-class II, but not HLA-class I mAb, inhibited allogeneic T-lymphocyte-mediated activation of DC, CD4 T lymphocytes appear to be the main subset activating DC in the mixed lymphocyte reaction. Cross-linking of CD40, but not HLA-class II, up-regulated DC or B-cell costimulator expression. Although direct class II signalling does not appear to play a role in DC activation, antigen-specific T-cell recognition contributes via other mechanisms to regulate DC activation
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