The immunophenotype of IDEC has been thoroughly investigated and includes Fc receptors, MHC molecules, adhesion molecules, chemokine receptors, co-stimulatory molecules, the thrombospondin receptor CD36, and the mannose receptor CD206. All IDECs express moderate CD1a but high CD11b and CD11 c levels (Bieber et al. 2000, Wollenberg et al. 1996). Based on the results of these experiments, IDECs resemble the immunophenotype of immature myeloid DCs of the interstitial type (Banchereau et al. 1998). Thus, all essential structures for DC function have been identified on IDECs.

Some key features of epidermal DCs in atopic dermatitis lesions, such as in situ IgE binding and expression of the high-affinity IgE receptor FceRI, are shared by IDECs and LCs (Wollenberg et al. 1999). The demonstration of IgE molecules on the surface of epidermal DCs, which has initially been attributed to the LC population, is in fact mostly due to the IDECs and the fact that IDECs and not LCs are the relevant FceRI-expressing epidermal DC population in the epidermis (Wollenberg and Bieber 2002). The same holds true for the expression of the co-stimulatory molecules CD80 and CD86 (Schuller et al. 2001).

Phenotypic analysis of IDECs in LE is hampered by the striking scarcity of IDECs in LE, which may be due to either lack of selective chemotactic recruitment or IDEC-specific apoptosis in LE lesions (Wollenberg et al. 1996,2002).

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