Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune disease in which cytotoxic T cells specifically target growing hair follicles. We used high-throughput TCR sequencing in the C3H/HeJ mouse model of AA and in human AA patients to gain insight into pathogenic T cell populations and their dynamics, which revealed clonal CD8+ T cell expansions in lesional skin. In the C3H/HeJ model, we observed interindividual sharing of TCRβ chain protein sequences, which strongly supports a model of antigenic drive in AA. The overlap between the lesional TCR repertoire and a population of CD8+NKG2D+ T cells in skin-draining lymph nodes identified this subset as pathogenic effectors. In AA patients, treatment with the oral JAK inhibitor tofacitinib resulted in a decrease in clonally expanded CD8+ T cells in the scalp but also revealed that many expanded lesional T cell clones do not completely disappear from either skin or blood during treatment with tofacitinib, which may explain in part the relapse of disease after stopping treatment.
Annemieke de Jong, Ali Jabbari, Zhenpeng Dai, Luzhou Xing, Dustin Lee, Mei Mei Li, Madeleine Duvic, Maria Hordinsky, David A. Norris, Vera Price, Julian Mackay-Wiggan, Raphael Clynes, Angela M. Christiano
Expanded clones in affected skin are predominantly NKG2D+CD8+ T cells.