Human embryonic epidermis contains a diverse Langerhans cell precursor pool

Christopher Schuster, Michael Mildner, Mario Mairhofer, Wolfgang Bauer, Christian Fiala, Marion Prior, Wolfgang Eppel, Andrea Kolbus, Erwin Tschachler, Georg Stingl, Adelheid Elbe-Bürger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Despite intense efforts, the exact phenotype of the epidermal Langerhans cell (LC) precursors during human ontogeny has not been determined yet. These elusive precursors are believed to migrate into the embryonic skin and to express primitive surface markers, including CD36, but not typical LC markers such as CD1a, CD1c and CD207. The aim of this study was to further characterize the phenotype of LC precursors in human embryonic epidermis and to compare it with that of LCs in healthy adult skin. We found that epidermal leukocytes in first trimester human skin are negative for CD34 and heterogeneous with regard to the expression of CD1c, CD14 and CD36, thus contrasting the phenotypic uniformity of epidermal LCs in adult skin. These data indicate that LC precursors colonize the developing epidermis in an undifferentiated state, where they acquire the definitive LC marker profile with time. Using a human three-dimensional full-thickness skin model to mimic in vivo LC development, we found that FACS-sorted, CD207- cord blood-derived haematopoietic precursor cells resembling foetal LC precursors but not CD14+CD16- blood monocytes integrate into skin equivalents, and without additional exogenous cytokines give rise to cells that morphologically and phenotypically resemble LCs. Overall, it appears that CD14- haematopoietic precursors possess a much higher differentiation potential than CD14+ precursor cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-815
Number of pages9
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2014


  • angerhans cell
  • Precursor
  • Development
  • Skin
  • Skin equivalent
  • Langerhans cell


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