C-type lectin receptors on dendritic cells and langerhans cells

An Erratum to this article was published on 01 May 2002

Key Points

  • Dendritic cells (DCs) and Langerhans cells (LCs) are professional antigen-presenting cells that play a pivotal role in the initiation and modulation of immune responses.

  • DCs and LCs are migratory cells that are specialized in antigen uptake and the processing and presentation of these antigens to lymphocytes.

  • In addition to DCs and LCs, there are other DC subsets, such as the plasmacytoid DCs that secrete high amounts of type I interferons.

  • Molecular profiling of DCs showed that they produce a unique set of C-type lectins and C-type lectin-like receptors. Different DC subsets and maturation stages exhibit distinct 'C-type-lectin' production profiles.

  • C-type lectins bind carbohydrates in a Ca2+-dependent manner and C-type lectin-like molecules bind either carbohydrates, polypeptide ligands or both.

  • C-type lectins and C-type lectin-like receptors are involved in a multitude of biological processes, including cell migration, antigen uptake and presentation and cell adhesion.

  • Recently, it has been shown that the C-type lectins Langerin and DC-SIGN are preferentially produced by DCs. Langerin is a constituent of the enigmatic Birbeck granules found in LCs. DC-SIGN is a high-affinity receptor for ICAM-3, which is abundantly expressed on naive T cells and has been implicated in the well-known phenomenon of antigen-independent DC–T-cell clustering.

  • DC-SIGN has also been shown to bind HIV-1 through interaction with the coat protein gp120 and to promote efficient infection in trans of T cells that produce the classical HIV CD4 and chemokine receptors.


Dendritic cells and Langerhans cells are specialized for the recognition of pathogens and have a pivotal role in the control of immunity. As guardians of the immune system, they are present in essentially every organ and tissue, where they operate at the interface of innate and acquired immunity. Recently, several C-type lectin and lectin-like receptors have been characterized that are expressed abundantly on the surface of these professional antigen-presenting cells. It is now becoming clear that lectin receptors not only serve as antigen receptors but also regulate the migration of dendritic cells and their interaction with lymphocytes.

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Figure 1: Two types of C-type lectins or lectin-like molecules are produced by dendritic cells and Langerhans cells.
Figure 2: Functional similarities between C-type lectins and lectin-like molecules on dendritic cells and other related molecules.


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Correspondence to Carl G. Figdor.

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activation-induced C-type lectin


















dectin 1

dectin 2



interleukin 12




mannose binding protein



tumour necrosis factor

type-1 interferon







Dendritic cells (T lymphocyte-stimulating)



Pentalamellar cytoplasmic organelles in LCs.


DCs that morphologically resemble antibody-producing plasma cells but produce large amounts of interferon, not immunoglobulins.


PAMPs are invariant molecular signatures of microorganisms that are essential for microorganism survival and are recognised by receptors of the innate immune system (PRRs).


PRRs have evolved to detect PAMPs on microorganisms and so detect the presence of infection.


Protein fold that allows Ca2+ and carbohydrate binding.


(ITIM). A structural motif found in the cytoplasmic domains of many receptors. These motifs recruit intracellular tyrosine phosphatases, which mediate the inhibition.


(ITAM). A structural motif containing tyrosine residues found in the cytoplasmic tails of several signalling molecules. The motif has the form Tyr-Xaa-Xaa-Leu/Ile, and the tyrosine is a target for phosphorylation by Src tyrosine kinases and subsequent binding of proteins containing SH2 domains.


The presentation of exogenous antigen by MHC class I molecules.

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Figdor, C., van Kooyk, Y. & Adema, G. C-type lectin receptors on dendritic cells and langerhans cells. Nat Rev Immunol 2, 77–84 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nri723

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