T-cell reconstitution after thymus xenotransplantation induces hair depigmentation and loss.
1221 - 1230
J Invest Dermatol
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Here we present a mouse model for T-cell targeting of hair follicles, linking the pathogenesis of alopecia to that of depigmentation disorders. Clinically, thymus transplantation has been successfully used to treat T-cell immunodeficiency in congenital athymia, but is associated with autoimmunity. We established a mouse model of thymus transplantation by subcutaneously implanting human thymus tissue into athymic C57BL/6 nude mice. These xenografts supported mouse T-cell development. Surprisingly, we did not detect multiorgan autoimmune disease. However, in all transplanted mice, we noted a striking depigmentation and loss of hair follicles. Transfer of T cells from transplanted nudes to syngeneic black-coated RAG(-/-) recipients caused progressive, persistent coat-hair whitening, which preceded patchy hair loss in depigmented areas. Further transfer experiments revealed that these phenomena could be induced by CD4+ T cells alone. Immunofluorescent analysis suggested that Trp2+ melanocyte-lineage cells were decreased in depigmented hair follicles, and pathogenic T cells upregulated activation markers when exposed to C57BL/6 melanocytes in vitro, suggesting that these T cells are not tolerant to self-melanocyte antigens. Our data raise interesting questions about the mechanisms underlying tissue-specific tolerance to skin antigens.