Langerhans cells are dendritic cells (antigen-presenting immune cells) of the skin and mucosa, and contain large granules called Birbeck granules. They are present in all layers of the epidermis, but are most prominent in the stratum spinosum. They also occur in the papillary dermis, particularly around blood vessels, as well as in the oral mucosa, foreskin, and vagina. They can be found in other tissues, such as lymph nodes, particularly in association with the condition Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH).
The Langerhans cell is named after Paul Langerhans, a German physician and anatomist, who discovered the cells at the age of 21 while he was a medical student. Because of their dendritic nature, he mistakenly identified the cells as part of the nervous system.
In skin infections, the local Langerhans cells take up and process microbial antigens to become fully functional antigen-presenting cells.
Generally, dendritic cells in biological tissue are active in the capture, uptake and processing of antigens. Once dendritic cells arrive in secondary lymphoid tissue, however, they lose these properties while gaining the capacity to interact with naive T-cells.
Langerhans cells derive from the cellular differentiation of monocytes with the marker "Gr-1" (also known as "Ly-6G/Ly-6C"). This differentiation requires stimulation by colony stimulating factor (CSF)-1. They are similar in morphology and function to macrophages.
In the rare disease Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), an excess of these cells is produced. This can cause damage to skin, bone and other organs.
Hussain & Lehner (2005) observed Langerhans cells have been observed in foreskin, vaginal, and oral mucosa of humans; the lower concentrations in oral mucosa suggest that it is not a likely source of HIV infection relative to foreskin and vaginal mucosa.
On March 4, 2007 the online Nature Medicine magazine published the letter "Langerin is a natural barrier to HIV-1 transmission by Langerhans cells." One of the authors of the study, Teunis Geijtenbeek, said that "Langerin is able to scavenge viruses from the surrounding environment, thereby preventing infection" and "since generally all tissues on the outside of our bodies have Langerhans cells, we think that the human body is equipped with an antiviral defense mechanism, destroying incoming viruses."
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- Langerhans, Paul (1868): Ueber die Nerven der menschlichen Haut [On the nerves of the human skin] (German), in: Archiv für Pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und für Klinische Medicin. 44(2-3):325-337, DOI. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
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Langerhans cell histiocytosis, OMIM. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
- Ginhoux, Florent / Frank Tacke / Veronique Angeli / Milena Bogunovic / Martine Loubeau / Xu-Ming Dai / E. Richard Stanley / Gwendalyn J. Randolph / Miriam Merad (26 January 2016): Langerhans cells arise from monocytes in vivo, in: Nature Immunology. 7(3):265-273, PMID, DOI. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
- Valladeau, Jenny / Sem Saeland (October 2003): Langerin/CD207 Sheds Light on Formation of Birbeck Granules and Their Possible Function in Langerhans Cells, in: Immunologic Research. 28(2):93-107, PMID, DOI. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
- Poulin, Lionel Franz / Sandrine Henri / Béatrice de Bovis / Elisabeth Devilard / Adrien Kissenpfennig / Bernard Malissen (24 December 2007): The dermis contains langerin+ dendritic cells that develop and function independently of epidermal Langerhans cells, in: Journal of Experimental Medicine. 204(13):3119-3131, PMID, PMC, DOI. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
- Kawamura, Tatsuyoshi / Stephen E. Kurtz / Andrew Blauvelt / Shinji Shimada (December 2005): The role of Langerhans cells in the sexual transmission of HIV, in: Journal of Dermatological Science. 40(3):147-155, PMID, DOI.
- Dezutter-Dambuyant, C. / A.S. Charbonnier / D. Schmitt (December 1995): Cellules dendritiques épithéliales et infection par HIV-1 in vivo et in vitro (English: Epithelial dendritic cells and HIV-1 infection in vivo and in vitro), in: Pathologie Biologie. 43(10):882-888, PMID. Retrieved 20 October 2019.
- De Witte, Lot / Alexey Nabatov / Marjorie Pion / Donna Fluitsma / Marein A.W.P. De Jong / Tanja De Gruijl / Vincent Piguet / Yvette Van Kooyk / Teunis B.H. Geijtenbeek (4 March 2007): Langerin is a natural barrier to HIV-1 transmission by Langerhans cells, in: Nature Medicine. 13(3):367-371, PMID, DOI. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
- Mundell, E. J. (5 March 2007)."Scientists Discover 'Natural Barrier' to HIV", HealthDay, MSN. Retrieved 27 June 2012.