Soluble antigen traffics from the corneal surface to the draining lymph nodes without T cell activation, unless there is co-delivery of a danger' signal. The transport of antigen to the secondary lymphoid tissue is a central component in the initiation of the adaptive immune response. The mechanism of antigen delivery to the DLN from the avascular cornea has not been fully explored. Previous studies in the mouse have shown that cell-associated corneal antigen is delivered within 6 h to the eye draining SM DLN via DCs and macrophages. In this study, we used a system in which antigen and the processed p-MHCII complexes derived from the antigen could be tracked in vivo. We report that soluble antigen applied to an abraded cornea in the mouse is transported rapidly (within 30 min) to the SM DLN, where a proportion is taken up by resident DCs and presented as p-MHCII complexes, while the larger part is cleared by 8 h. At a later time, a second wave of antigen transport in migratory DCs enters the DLN and participates in further continued antigen presentation. With the use of an antigen-specific TCR transgenic mouse system, we demonstrate that T cell activation does not occur during the early stages of soluble antigen delivery to LN, even though p-MHCII complexes are generated. Antigen-specific T cell activation occurs in the later, presumed cell-associated phase but requires codelivery of a danger signal, such as the TLR ligand CpG. We suggest that the early delivery of soluble antigen is more likely to induce T cell nonresponsiveness (anergy) unless presented in the context of an innate-immune cell activation (danger) signal.
- antigen presentation
- dendritic cells