The hypoxic environment reprograms the cytokine/chemokine expression profile of human mature dendritic cells

Fabiola Blengio, Federica Raggi, Daniele Pierobon, Paola Cappello, Alessandra Eva, Mirella Giovarelli, Luigi Varesio, Maria Carla Bosco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Myeloid dendritic cells (DCs) are professional antigen-presenting cells critical for the orchestration of immunity and maintenance of self-tolerance. DC development and functions are tightly regulated by a complex network of inhibitory and activating signals present in the tissue microenvironment, and dysregulated DC responses may result in amplification of inflammation, loss of tolerance, or establishment of immune escape mechanisms. Generation of mature (m)DCs from monocytic precursors recruited at pathological sites occurs under condition of low partial oxygen pressure (pO2). However, the way in which the hypoxic microenvironment modulates the functions of these cells is still not clear. We demonstrate that chronic hypoxia (4 days, 1% O2) promotes the onset of a highly proinflammatory gene expression profile in mDCs generated from primary human monocytes, characterized by the modulation of a significant cluster of genes coding for proinflammatory chemokines/cytokines and/or their receptors. Within the chemokine system, strong upregulation of genes encoding proteins chemotactic for neutrophils, such as CXCL2, CXCL3, CXCL5, CXCL6, and CXCL8, and for activated/memory T lymphocytes, monocytes, and immature (i) DCs, e.g. CCL20, CCL3 and CCL5, was observed, concomitant with decreased expression of genes coding for naive/resting T cells chemoattractants, CCL18 and CCL23. Other hypoxia-inducible genes coded for cytokines with a primary role in inflammation and angiogenesis, including osteopontin, vascular endothelial growth factor, and IL-1β. mRNA modulation was paralleled by protein secretion. These results suggest that conditions of reduced O2 availability reprograms mDCs toward a proinflammatory direction by tuning the cytokine/chemokine repertoire, thus affecting their ability to regulate leukocyte trafficking and activation at pathological sites, with potential implications for the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-89
Number of pages14
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • Chemokines/cytokines
  • Dendritic cells
  • Gene regulation
  • Hypoxia
  • Inflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Hematology


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