Disruption of the langerin/CD207 gene abolishes Birbeck granules without a marked loss of Langerhans cell function.
Langerin is a C-type lectin expressed by a subset of dendritic leukocytes, the Langerhans cells (LC). Langerin is a cell surface receptor that induces the formation of an LC-specific organelle, the Birbeck granule (BG). We generated a langerin(-/-) mouse on a C57BL/6 background which did not display any macroscopic aberrant development. In the absence of langerin, LC were detected in normal numbers in the epidermis but the cells lacked BG. LC of langerin(-/-) mice did not present other phenotypic alterations compared to wild-type littermates. Functionally, the langerin(-/-) LC were able to capture antigen, to migrate towards skin draining lymph nodes, and to undergo phenotypic maturation. In addition, langerin(-/-) mice were not impaired in their capacity to process native OVA protein for I-A(b)-restricted presentation to CD4(+) T lymphocytes or for H-2K(b)-restricted cross-presentation to CD8(+) T lymphocytes. langerin(-/-) mice inoculated with mannosylated or skin-tropic microorganisms did not display an altered pathogen susceptibility. Finally, chemical mutagenesis resulted in a similar rate of skin tumor development in langerin(-/-) and wild-type mice. Overall, our data indicate that langerin and BG are dispensable for a number of LC functions. The langerin(-/-) C57BL/6 mouse should be a valuable model for further functional exploration of langerin and the role of BG.
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