Background/aims-Dendritic cells (DC) and macrophages are components of the immune cell populations in the uveal tract whose density, distribution, turnover, and function may play a role in the maintenance of immunological homeostasis in the eye. Little is known of these cells in the mouse eye despite this being the predominant experimental model in many studies of ocular immune responses and immunoinflammatory mediated eye diseases. The aim of the present study was to obtain further immunophenotypic data on resident tissue macrophages and DC populations in the mouse uveal tract.Methods-Pieces of iris, ciliary body, and choroid dissected from perfusion fixed BALB/c mice were incubated whole in a variety of anti-macrophage and DC monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). Labelled cells were visualised using either single or double immunoperoxidase techniques.Results-Quantitative analysis and double immunolabelling revealed that 80% of F4/80(+) cells (a mAb that recognises both DC and macrophages) in the iris are macrophages (SER4(+)). The iris contained a network of Ia(+) cells (412 (SD 130) cells/mm(2)) of which two thirds appear to be DC. A similar pattern was observed in the ciliary body and choroid. Only a few DC in the uveal tract were very weakly reactive for mAbs which recognise B7-1 (CD80), B7-2 (CD86), beta 2 integrin (mAb N418), and multivesicular bodies associated with antigen presentation (mAb M342).Conclusions-The present study reveals that the mouse uveal tract, like the rat, contains rich networks of DC and resident tissue macrophages. The networks of resident tissue macrophages in the mouse uveal tract closely resemble similar networks in non-ocular tissues. The phenotype of uveal tract DC suggests they are in the "immature" phase of their life cycle, similar to Langerhans cells of the skin, thus implying their role in situ within the eye is antigen capture and not antigen presentation.