Murine DCAL2 (myeloid inhibitory C-type lectin/Clec12a) is a type-II CLR with an ITIM. Using a mouse DCAL2-specific mAb, we found that DCAL2 is expressed at relatively high levels on APCs and that DCAL2 expression can be used to divide CD8α- DCs into DCAL2+DCIR2- and DCAL2-DCIR2+ subpopulations. CD8α-DCAL2+ DC, CD8α-DCIR2+ DC, and CD8α+DCAL2+ DC subsets each express different levels of TLRs and respond to unique classes of TLR ligands by producing distinct sets of cytokines.
Whereas CD8α-DCAL2+ DCs robustly produce cytokines, including IL-12, in response to CpG, CD8α-DCIR2+ DCs produce only TNF-α and IL-10 in modest amounts when stimulated with zymosan. However, CD8α-DCIR2+DCs, unlike the other DC subsets, strongly up-regulate OX40L when stimulated with bacterial flagellin.
As predicted from their cytokine expression, CD8α-DCAL2+ DCs efficiently induced Th1 responses in the presence of CpG in vitro and in vivo, whereas CD8α-DCIR2+ DCs induced Th2 cells in response to flagellin. Thus, CD8α-DCAL2+ DCs comprise a distinct CD8α- DC subset capable of supporting Th1 responses. DCAL2 is a useful marker to identify a Th1-inducing CD8α- DC population.