To explore the relationships among Ia antigen expression, epidermal Langerhans cells, and the immunogenicity of skin allografts, cellophane tape-stripping was used in H-2 congenic and recombinant mice of defined immunogenetic disparity. Tape-stripping of murine abdominal wall skin achieved almost complete depletion of epidermal Langerhans cells within a few hours of application, as measured by cell surface ATPase and expression of Ia antigens. Tape-stripping also reduced, to a considerable degree (but not absolutely), the Ia immunogenicity of skin allografts prepared from stripped surfaces. No comparable reduction in immunogenicity of class I major histocompatibility determinants was observed, suggesting that Langerhans cells are relatively unimportant in the presentation of H-2K antigens in skin grafts. Langerhans cells reappear within 24 h of tape-stripping to anatomically intact skin, but are detectable in orthotopically grafted only after the graft has been in residence for 4 d, i.e., shortly after it has acquired a blood supply. Repopulating Langerhans cells at that time and thereafter are exclusively of host origin. These results indicate that the traffic of Langerhans cells to the skin can be extremely dynamic, especially when the epidermal surface has been markedly disturbed, and the data imply that, under normal circumstances, large numbers of Langerhans cells can be mobilized readily from an available pool of precursors.

This content is only available as a PDF.