Genomics and Immunoregulation, Life & Medical Sciences (LIMES) Institute, University of Bonn, Carl-Troll-Str. 31, 53115 Bonn, Germany; Platform for Single Cell Genomics and Epigenomics, German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases and University of Bonn, Sigmund-Freud-Str. 27, 53175 Bonn, Germany. Electronic address: [Email]
As the most important antigen-presenting cells, dendritic cells connect the innate and adaptive part of our immune system and play a pivotal role in our course of action against invading pathogens as well as during successful vaccination. Immunologists have therefore studied these cells in great detail using flow cytometry-based analyses, in vitro assays and in vivo models, both in murine models and in humans. Albeit, sophisticated, classical immunological, and molecular approaches were often unable to unequivocally determine the subpopulation structure of the dendritic cell lineage and not surprisingly, conflicting results about dendritic cell subsets co-existed throughout the last decades. With the advent of systems approaches and the most recent introduction of -omics approaches on the single cell level combined with multi-colour flow cytometry or mass cytometry, we now enter an era allowing us to define cell population structures with an unprecedented precision. We will report here on the most recent studies applying these technologies to human dendritic cells. Proper delineation of and definition of molecular signatures for the different human dendritic cell subsets will greatly facilitate studying these cells in the future: understanding their function under physiological as well as pathological conditions.