Oral tolerance is a process that allows generation of systemic unresponsiveness to food antigens. Hence if the same antigen is introduced systemically even under immunogenic conditions it does not induce immune responsiveness. Dendritic cells (DCs) have been identified as essential players in this process. DCs in the gut are located in a strategic position as they can interact directly with luminal antigens or indirectly after their transcytosis across epithelial cells. DCs can then migrate to associated lymphoid tissues to induce tolerance. Antigen presenting cells in the gut are specialized in function and have divided their labour so that there are cells capable to migrate to the draining mesenteric lymph node for induction of T regulatory cells, while other subsets are resident and are required to enforce tolerance locally in the gut after food antigen exposure. In this review, I shall summarize the characteristics of antigen presenting cells in the gut and their involvement in oral tolerance induction. In addition, I will also emphasize that tolerance to food allergens may be contributed by plasmacytoid DCs in the liver that participate to the elimination or anergy of allergen-specific CD8 T cells. Hence specialized functions are associated to different subsets of antigen presenting cells and different organs.
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