We assessed the number of Langerhans cells (LC) before and after bone marrow transplantation (BMT) in 27 patients in order to study the fate and behavior of these dendritic antigen-presenting cells following allogeneic BMT. LC were identified using monoclonal antibody OKT6 on skin biopsies performed on days - 10, 0, 11, 25, 39, 120, and 365. In a control group composed of 15 healthy adults aged 20–37 yr, the mean number of LC (+/- SEM) was 25.6 +/- 1.17/0.1 sq mm of epidermal surface. Our study shows that pretransplant, the number of LC in patients with aplastic anemia or leukemia was lower than that of controls. The finding of low numbers of LC in patients with untreated aplastic anemia is suggestive of a medullary origin of LC in man. Moreover, during the early posttransplant period, nearly all patients present a severe deficit in LC. This deficit may delay the maturation of their immune system. The number of LC reaches nearly normal levels 4– 12 mo after BMT. Finally, we have noted a significant impairment of LC reconstitution in patients with acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), providing evidence that this defect may be an important mechanism involved in acute GVHD-related immunodeficiency.

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