Type 1 conventional dendritic cells (cDC1s) are rare immune cells critical for the induction of antigen-specific cytotoxic CD8+ T cells, although the genetic program driving human cDC1 specification remains largely unexplored. We previously identified PU.1, IRF8, and BATF3 transcription factors as sufficient to induce cDC1 fate in mouse fibroblasts, but reprogramming of human somatic cells was limited by low efficiency. Here, we investigated single-cell transcriptional dynamics during human cDC1 reprogramming. Human induced cDC1s (hiDC1s) generated from embryonic fibroblasts gradually acquired a global cDC1 transcriptional profile and expressed antigen presentation signatures, whereas other DC subsets were not induced at the single-cell level during the reprogramming process. We extracted gene modules associated with successful reprogramming and identified inflammatory signaling and the cDC1-inducing transcription factor network as key drivers of the process. Combining IFN-γ, IFN-β, and TNF-α with constitutive expression of cDC1-inducing transcription factors led to improvement of reprogramming efficiency by 190-fold. hiDC1s engulfed dead cells, secreted inflammatory cytokines, and performed antigen cross-presentation, key cDC1 functions. This approach allowed efficient hiDC1 generation from adult fibroblasts and mesenchymal stromal cells. Mechanistically, PU.1 showed dominant and independent chromatin targeting at early phases of reprogramming, recruiting IRF8 and BATF3 to shared binding sites. The cooperative binding at open enhancers and promoters led to silencing of fibroblast genes and activation of a cDC1 program. These findings provide mechanistic insights into human cDC1 specification and reprogramming and represent a platform for generating patient-tailored cDC1s, a long-sought DC subset for vaccination strategies in cancer immunotherapy.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Immunology in the medical area
- Cell and Molecular Biology