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Langerhans cell

noun, plural: Langerhans cells
An antigen-presenting (dendritic) cell characterized by the presence of Birbeck granules, and is present in the skin and the mucosa
Langerhans cells are dendritic cells located in the skin and the mucosa. They are part of the mononuclear phagocyte system of the body. The mononuclear phagocyte system is a system comprised of phagocytic cells located in reticular connective tissue. Reticular connective tissue is a type of connective tissue characterized by the predominance of reticular fibers. Apart from Langerhans cells, adipose tissue macrophages, Kupffer cells, Hofbauer cells, etc. are part of the monocyte phagocyte system.1
Langerhans cells are characterized by the presence of rod- or tennis-shaped cytoplasmic organelles called Birbeck granules. They are present in the skin and the mucosa, e.g. mouth, foreskin, and vagina. They account for about 2% of the cells in the epidermis. In these sites, the Langerhans cells take in and process microbial antigens. When they travel to draining lymph nodes they become antigen-presenting cells, i.e. presenting antigens to T lymphocytes.2
Langerhans cells are named after the German physician and anatomist, Paul Langerhans (who is also the one who first described the pancreatic cells producing insulin called islets of Langerhans and the protein Langerin encoded by the CD207 gene).
See also:

  • phagocyte
  • reticular connective tissue
  • histiocytosis

Related term(s):

  • Langerhans cell histiocytosis


1 Mononuclear phagocyte system. BiologyOnline

2 Patterson, J. & Hosler, G. (2016). Weedon’s skin pathology. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.

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