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Previous studies have suggested that defective immune responses in early life may be related to the immaturity of neonatal antigen-presenting cells. To test this hypothesis, we assessed the capacity of neonatal dendritic cells (DC) to prime and polarize in vitro human naive antigen-specific T cells. We report that mature cord blood DC efficiently prime an oligoclonal population of antigen-specific CD8 T cells, capable of cytolytic activity and IFN-gamma secretion. In contrast, cells primed by immature cord blood DC do not acquire cytolytic activity and secrete lower amounts of IFN-gamma. Upon priming by either immature or mature DC, neonatal T cells acquire markers of activation and differentiation towards effector-memory cells. Our results demonstrate that, if appropriately activated, neonatal DC can prime efficient cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses. Furthermore, these findings have important implications for the development of vaccine strategies in early life and for the reconstitution of a functional CTL repertoire after bone marrow transplantation.

Original publication




Journal article


Int Immunol

Publication Date





1265 - 1273


Antigen-Presenting Cells, Cell Line, Cytotoxicity, Immunologic, Dendritic Cells, Fetal Blood, Humans, Immunologic Memory, Infant, Newborn, Interferon-gamma, Lymphocyte Activation, Peptides, T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic