Dendritic cells (DCs) are functionally diverse and are present in most adult tissues, but deep understanding of human DC biology is hampered by relatively small numbers of these in circulation and their short lifespan in human tissues. We built a transcriptional atlas of human DCs by combining samples from 14 expression profiling studies derived from 10 laboratories. We identified significant gene expression variation of DC subset–defining markers across tissue type and upon viral or bacterial stimulation. We further highlight critical gaps between in vitro–derived DC subsets and their in vivo counterparts and provide evidence that monocytes or cord blood progenitor in vitro–differentiated DCs fail to capture the repertoire of primary DC subsets or behaviors. In constructing a reference DC atlas, we provide an important resource for the community wishing to identify and annotate tissue-specific DC subsets from single-cell datasets, or benchmark new in vitro models of DC biology.

This work was supported by Department of Health/National Health and Medical Research Council Synergy Grant APP1186371 to C.A.W. Z.E. is funded by an Australian Postgraduate Award to The University of Melbourne.

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