Dendritic cells (DC) have a main function in innate immunity in that they sense infections and environmental antigens at the skin and mucosal surfaces and thereby critically influence decisions about immune activation or tolerance. As professional antigen-presenting cells, they are essential for induction of adaptive immune responses. Consequently, knowledge on this cell type is required to understand the immune systems of veterinary mammals, including cattle, sheep, pigs, dogs, cats, and horses. Recent ontogenic studies define bona fide DC as an independent lineage of hematopoietic cells originating from a common precursor. Distinct transcription factors control the development into the two subsets of classical DC and plasmacytoid DC. These DC subsets express a distinguishable transcriptome, which differs from that of monocyte-derived DC. Using a comparative approach based on phenotype and function, this review attempts to classify DC of veterinary mammals and to describe important knowledge gaps.


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