Dendritic cells (DCs) in the intestine are heterogeneous. Phenotypically different populations of conventional DCs have been identified in the intestinal lamina propria, Peyer's patches, and in the draining mesenteric lymph nodes, to which these DCs constitutively migrate. Markers used to identify these populations include major histocompatibility complex class II, CD11c, CD8α, CD11b, and CD103. Extensive studies in rats, summarized here, which involved collection of migrating DCs by thoracic duct cannulation after mesenteric lymphadenectomy, have clearly demonstrated that the subsets of migrating intestinal lymph DCs have different functional properties. The subsets might play different roles in the induction of oral tolerance and in driving systemic immune responses after vaccination or intestinal stimulation with Toll-like receptor ligands. The use of these surgical techniques allows investigation of the functions of purified subsets of migrating DCs. However, in the rat, these studies are limited by the range of available reagents and are difficult to compare with data from other species in this fast-moving field. Recent refinements have enabled the collection of migrating intestinal DCs from mice; our initial results are described here. We believe that these studies will generate exciting data and have the potential to resolve important questions about the functions of migrating intestinal DC subsets
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