Whereas dendritic cells (DC) are known to be potent activators of T cells both in vitro and in vivo, the critical costimulatory molecules expressed on DC are not well characterized. Using immunocytochemical and molecular techniques we find that splenic DC express B7/BB1, the counter-receptor for CD28. Moreover, expression of B7/BB1 is upregulated on epidermal Langerhans cells (LC) during their functional maturation into potent T cell stimulators. In blocking experiments, we find that participation of B7/BB1 is required for optimal proliferation of unprimed, allogeneic T cells in DC-driven, primary mixed leukocyte reactions. These data demonstrate that the regulated expression of B7/BB1 on DC may be important in the initiation of a primary T cell response.

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