LCs are defined as bone marrow-derived, epidermally located, dendritically shaped, Birbeck granule-containing APCs that express CD1a and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II molecules (Wollenberg and Bieber 2002). They are regarded as the prototype of immature skin DCs and are subclassified as myeloid DCs. LCs are located in the basal and suprabasal layers of the normal, uninflamed epidermis and are regarded as the first barrier of the skin toward the environment. All antigens penetrating the human body as well as locally produced self-antigens have to pass this first immunologic wall of defense. A small percentage of Birbeck granule-positive CD1a-expressing DCs can also be found in the dermis and are considered to be migrating LCs (Meunier et al. 1993).

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