Artistic coloration of a human dendritic cell, illustrating the characteristic ‘star-like’ shape and indicating the central role dendritic cells play for the immune system.
Dendritic cells are antigen-presenting cells of the mammalian immune system. Their main function is to process antigen material and present it on the cell surface to the T cells of the immune system. Once activated, dendritic cells can migrate to lymph nodes where they interact with T cells and B cells to initiate an adaptive immune response.
The dendritic cell was first described by Paul Langerhans (hence “Langerhans cell”) in the late nineteenth century. In 1973 Ralph M. Steinman and Zanvil A. Cohn established the term “dendritic cell”. For discovering the central role of dendritic cells in the adaptive immune response, Steinman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2011.