The precise contribution(s) of skin dendritic cells (DCs) to immune responses in the skin has not been well delineated. We developed an intradermal (i.d.) injection model in which CD8(+) T (OT-I) cells that express ovalbumin (OVA) peptide-specific TCRs (V alpha 2/V beta 5) are delivered directly to the dermis of transgenic (Tg) mice expressing OVA in the epidermis. After i.d. injection, these mice reliably develop skin graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) by day 7. To determine the relative contribution of Langerhans cells (LCs) to the ensuing GVHD-like reaction, we generated K14-OVA x Langerin-diphtheria-toxin-receptor (Langerin-DTR) Tg mice to allow conditional ablation of LCs in the epidermis. To delineate the role of dermal DCs (dDCs) in the reaction, we also generated K14-OVA Tg chimeras using beta(2)-microglobulin-deficient (beta(2)m) congenic donor bone marrow cells. Dermal DCs in these mice cannot present OVA to autoreactive T cells (OT-I cells), whereas the LCs are antigen presentation-competent. Unexpectedly, OT-I cell injection into diphtheria toxin (DT)-treated beta(2)m -> K14-OVA x Langerin-DTR Tg mice resulted in skin GVHD. Thus, in vivo, both LC and dDC appear to be dispensable for the induction of keratinocyte-directed, CD8-mediated effector immune responses. Furthermore and surprisingly, OVA-expressing epidermal cells depleted of LCs that could not initiate allogeneic epidermal lymphocyte reactions activated naive OT-I cells in vitro. These results indicate that keratinocytes may function as accessory cells competent to prime naive skin-reactive T cells.