Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II-restricted antigen presentation is essential for the function of dendritic cells (DCs). We show here that plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) differ from all other DC subsets with respect to expression of CIITA, the 'master regulator' of MHC class II genes. The gene encoding CIITA is controlled by three cell type-specific promoters: pI, pIII and pIV. With gene targeting in mice, we demonstrate that pDCs rely strictly on the B cell promoter pIII, whereas macrophages and all other DCs depend on pI. The molecular mechanisms driving MHC class II expression in pDCs are thus akin to those operating in lymphoid rather than myeloid cells.
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