Thorax 61:986-991 doi:10.1136/thx.2006.060335
  • Lung biology

Density of dendritic cells in the human tracheal mucosa is age dependent and site specific

  1. T Tschernig1,
  2. V C de Vries1,
  3. A S Debertin2,
  4. A Braun3,
  5. T Walles4,
  6. F Traub5,
  7. R Pabst1
  1. 1Functional and Applied Anatomy, Medical School of Hannover, Hannover, Germany
  2. 2Department of Legal Medicine, Medical School of Hannover, Hannover, Germany
  3. 3Department of Immunology and Allergy, Fraunhofer Institute of Toxicology and Experimental Medicine, Hannover, Germany
  4. 4Department of Thoracic Surgery, Heidehaus, Klinikum Hannover, Hannover, Germany
  5. 5Department of Pathology, Medical School of Hannover, Hannover, Germany
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr T Tschernig
    Functional and Applied Anatomy, Medical School of Hannover, Carl-Neuberg-Str 1, 30625 Hannover, Germany; tschernig.thomas{at}
  • Received 4 February 2006
  • Accepted 10 July 2006
  • Published Online First 7 August 2006


Background: The mucosal immune system undergoes extensive changes in early childhood in response to environmental stimuli. Dendritic cells (DC) play a major role in the development of the immune system. However, few data exist on the influence of continuous environmental stimulation on the distribution and phenotype of human airway DC.

Methods: Human tissue samples are mostly paraffin embedded which limits the use of several antibodies, and respiratory tissue for cryopreservation is difficult to obtain. Human frozen post mortem tracheal tissue was therefore used for this study. Only samples with epithelial adherence to the basement membrane were included (n = 34). Immunohistochemical staining and sequential overlay immunofluorescence were performed with DC-SIGN and a panel of leucocyte markers co-expressed by DC.

Results: DC detected in the human tracheal mucosa using DC-SIGN correlated with the expression of HLA-DR, co-stimulatory and adhesion molecules. Higher cell densities were found at the ventral tracheal site of patients older than 1 year than in infants in the first year of life.

Conclusion: The increasing population of mucosal DC with age could reflect immunological maturation.


  • Published Online First 7 August 2006

  • TT and VCdV contributed equally to the paper.

  • This study was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB 587/B5).

  • Competing interests: none.