These studies address the hypothesis that Ag-bearing epidermal Langerhans cells migrate to the regional lymph node during contact sensitization and function as APC. Skin from C3H mice was grafted onto BALB/c nude mice, and 7 or 14 days later, the recipients were sensitized with FITC through the grafts. APC from lymph nodes draining the site of sensitization were capable of sensitizing C3H recipients to FITC. Because sensitization is MHC restricted, only cells reaching the lymph node from the grafted skin could have induced contact hypersensitivity in C3H mice. Examination of the FITC+ draining lymph node cells by immunofluorescence and immunoelectron microscopy demonstrated that all were Ia+, most were F4/80+, and some contained Birbeck granules. These studies demonstrate that Ia+, FITC+ cells from the skin, at least some of which are Langerhans cells, leave the skin after epicutaneous sensitization with FITC and participate in the initiation of the contact hypersensitivity response within the regional lymph node.

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