An Investigation of Langerhans' Cell Function in Aged Skin

  • Stephanie Ogden

    Student thesis: Phd


    With increasing age, aspects of the innate and adaptive immune systems show functional decline. In the skin this is associated with an increased incidence of epidermal malignancies and infections, a decreased incidence of contact allergy, and the development of autoimmunity. The mechanisms underlying these clinical effects in aged skin are poorly understood. Langerhans' cells (LCs), which are members of the wider family of dendritic cells (DCs), reside in the epidermis where they act as sentinels of the immune system by processing and presenting antigen and inducing T cell responses. Previous investigations have suggested that the number of epidermal LCs is reduced, and that the motility of LCs is impaired in aged skin. A series of investigations was performed to characterise the mechanistic basis for the reduced frequency and restricted mobility of epidermal LCs in the skin of the elderly. Initially LC-like cells were cultured from circulating monocyte precursors and characterised using flow cytometry. The ability of precursors to differentiate into LC-like cells was not impaired in the aged; furthermore there were no age-associated differences in expression of markers of LC activation at baseline or upon stimulation. The phenotype of epidermal LCs was assessed using flow cytometric analysis of epidermal cell suspensions and did not appear altered in aged individuals. In addition, using the same techniques with dermal cell suspensions the dermal DC population was not altered with age. Langerhans' cell migration from epidermal explants prepared from the skin of aged individuals was impaired but could be restored with exogenous interleukin (IL)-1β. There was no age-related reduction in the epidermal levels of IL-1β or caspase-1 (IL-1β converting enzyme which converts pro-IL-1β to the active form) or the expression of the IL-1 receptor I (IL-1RI), to account for this observation. However, the amount of IL-1 receptor antagonist was reduced in aged skin suggesting a change in the overall local cytokine balance. Based on previous reports that topical retinoic acid (RA) can increase cutaneous IL-1 production, a 4-day patch test assay was performed using 0.025% all-trans RA cream to explore whether this could restore LC migration in the aged. There was no effect on LC migration from epidermal explants prepared after treatment with RA in the aged.These data demonstrate that changes in LC function in the elderly may not be associated with changes in systemic DC biology. Age related changes in the cutaneous microenvironment are likely to be more relevant.
    Date of Award1 Aug 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorChristopher Griffiths (Supervisor), Ian Kimber (Supervisor) & Rebecca Dearman (Supervisor)


    • Langerhans' cell
    • Ageing
    • Interleukin-1

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