P-glycoprotein (Pgp) and vaults are associated with multidrug resistance in tumor cells, but their physiological functions are not yet clear. Pgp, the prototypical transmembrane transporter molecule, may also facilitate the migration of skin dendritic cells (DC). Vaults - ribonucleoprotein cell organelles, frequently overexpressed in Pgp-negative drug-resistant tumor cells - have also been associated with intracellular transport processes. Given the pivotal role of DC in dealing with exposure to potentially harmful substances, the present study was set out to examine the expression of Pgp and vaults during differentiation and maturation of DC. DC were obtained from different sources, including blood-derived monocytes, CD34+ mononuclear cells, and chronic myeloid leukemia cells. Whereas flow cytometric and immunocytochemical analyses showed slightly augmented levels of Pgp, up-regulation of vault expression during DC culturing was strong, readily confirmed by Western blotting, and independent of the source of DC. In further exploring the functional significance of vault expression, it was found that supplementing DC cultures with polyclonal or mAbs against the major vault protein led to lower viabilities of LPS- or TNF-α-matured monocytes-DC. Moreover, expression of critical differentiation, maturation, and costimulatory molecules, including CD1a and CD83, was reduced and their capacity to induce Ag-specific T cell proliferative and IFN-γ release responses was impaired. These data point to a role for vaults in both DC survival and functioning as APC.