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Original Article


Antigen-presenting cells in the hypertrophic pharyngeal tonsils: a histochemical, immunuhistochemical and ultrastructural study


M. Kemal Özbilgin*, S. Polat**, U. Ö. Mete**, Ö. Tap**, M. Kaya**

*Division of Histology and Embryology, Faculty of Medicine, Celal Bayar University
**Division of Histology and Embryology, Faculty of Medicine, Çukurova University

J Invest Allergol Clin Immunol 2004; Vol. 14(4): 320-328



The antigen presenting cells (APCs) with special interest to dendritic cells (DC), were investigated in 28 hypertrophic and 10 control pharyngeal tonsils of children by histochemistry, immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy. In this study, we are trying to clarify the function and classification of APC in pharyngeal tonsils using morphologic criteria, Human Leukocyte Antigen Monoclonal Antibody (HLA-DR MoAb), which is specific for APCs, and acid phosphatase (APh) reacting with both phagosomes and lysosomes.
The surface epithelium of the patient group examined by light microscopy, heavy infiltration of lymphocytes, degenerated columnar cells and a few HLA-DR MoAb (+) columnar cells was observed. Additionally, a significant number of APCs which were Langerhans cells (LCs), interdigitating dendritic cell (IDC), follicular dendritic cell (FDC) and macrophages were stained with both HLA-DR MoAb and APh in the epithelial, interfollicular-subepithelial and follicular areas. Ultrastructural examinations revealed that lymphocytes, macrophages, LC and M cells were
found among the surface columnar epithelial cells of the patient group. The interactions between M cells and LC suggested that M cells probably passed antigens from surface to LC. In the interfollicular-subepithelial areas of the hypertrophic pharyngeal tonsil, IDCs were in close contact with lymphocytes, macrophages and plasma cells. Seven types of FDCs (FDC-1 - FDC-7) were recognised according to their ultrastructural appearances. Differentiated FDCs (FDC-4) were also in close contact with each active subtype of FDCs in follicular areas besides lymphocytes.
These findings supported the idea that although the pharyngeal tonsils contained several types of active APCs, only DC were in close contact with immunocompetent cells and the other APC’s. Therefore, these morphologic appearances of DC could be a sign of function to initiate the immune response of the pharyngeal tonsil.

Key Words: Dendritic cell, Antigen-presenting cell, Pharyngeal tonsil, M cell, Langerhans cell, Macrophage, Plasma cell.