Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology
Dendritic Cells; Antigens, CD11c; Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ets
Cell and Developmental Biology | Immunology and Infectious Disease
Dendritic cells (DCs) regulate innate and acquired immunity through their roles as antigen-presenting cells. Specific subsets of mature DCs, including monocyte-derived and lymphoid-derived DCs, can be distinguished based on distinct immunophenotypes and functional properties. The leukocyte integrin, CD11c, is considered a specific marker for DCs and it is expressed by all DC subsets. We created a strain of mice in which DCs and their progenitors could be lineage traced based on activity of the CD11c proximal promoter. Surprisingly, we observed levels of CD11c promoter activity that were similar in DCs and in other mature leukocytes, including monocytes, granulocytes, and lymphocytes. We sought to identify DNA elements and transcription factors that regulate DC-associated expression of CD11c. The ets transcription factor, PU.1, is a key regulator of DC development, and expression of PU.1 varies in different DC subsets. GM-CSF increased monocyte-derived DCs in mice and from mouse bone marrow cultured in vitro, but it did not increase CD8(+) lymphoid-derived DCs or B220(+) plasmacytoid DCs. FLT3L increased both monocyte-derived DCs and lymphoid-derived DCs from mouse bone marrow cultured in vitro. GM-CSF increased the 5.3 Kb CD11c proximal promoter activity in monocyte-derived DCs and CD8(+) lymphoid-derived DCs, but not in B220(+) plasmacytoid DCs. In contrast, FLT3L increased the CD11c proximal promoter activity in both monocyte-derived DCs and B220(+) plasmacytoid DCs. We used shRNA gene knockdown and chromatin immunoprecipitation to demonstrate that PU.1 is required for the effects of GM-CSF or FLT3L on monocyte-derived DCs. We conclude that both GM-CSF and FLT3L act through PU.1 to activate the 5.3 Kb CD11c proximal promoter in DCs and to induce differentiation of monocyte-derived DCs. We also confirm that the CD11c proximal promoter is not sufficient to direct lineage specificity of CD11c expression, and that additional DNA elements are required for lineage-specific CD11c expression.