Dendritic cells are APCs that are unique in their potency to stimulate proliferation of primary Ag-specific responses in vitro and in vivo. In this study, we demonstrate that dendritic cells can produce IL-12, a dominant cytokine involved in the development of IFN-gamma-producing T cells. This finding resulted from our observations that dendritic cell-induced Th1 development from total CD4+ T cells upon neutralization of endogenous levels of IL-4 was IL-12-dependent. Furthermore, we demonstrate that dendritic cells can induce the development of Th1 cells from Ag-specific naive LECAM-1bright CD4+ T cells obtained from alpha beta-TCR transgenic mice, provided that CD4+ LECAM-1dull T cells, which produce significant levels of IL-4, are not present in the primary cultures. Production of IL-12 by dendritic cells was confirmed by positive immunofluoresence staining with Abs specific for the inducible IL-12 p40 subunit. This suggests that in addition to inducing proliferation and clonal expansion of naive T cells, dendritic cells, by their production of IL-12, play a direct role in the development of IFN-gamma-producing cells that are important for cell-mediated immune responses.

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