Vitiligo is an autoimmune skin disease characterized by the destruction of melanocytes by autoreactive CD8+ T cells. Melanocyte destruction in active vitiligo is mediated by CD8+ T cells, but the persistence of white patches in stable disease is poorly understood. The interaction between immune cells, melanocytes, and keratinocytes in situ in human skin has been difficult to study due to the lack of proper tools. We combine noninvasive multiphoton microscopy (MPM) imaging and single-cell RNA-Seq (scRNA-Seq) to identify subpopulations of keratinocytes in stable vitiligo patients. We show that, compared with nonlesional skin, some keratinocyte subpopulations are enriched in lesional vitiligo skin and shift their energy utilization toward oxidative phosphorylation. Systematic investigation of cell-to-cell communication networks show that this small population of keratinocyte secrete CXCL9 and CXCL10 to potentially drive vitiligo persistence. Pseudotemporal dynamics analyses predict an alternative differentiation trajectory that generates this new population of keratinocytes in vitiligo skin. Further MPM imaging of patients undergoing punch grafting treatment showed that keratinocytes favoring oxidative phosphorylation persist in nonresponders but normalize in responders. In summary, we couple advanced imaging with transcriptomics and bioinformatics to discover cell-to-cell communication networks and keratinocyte cell states that can perpetuate inflammation and prevent repigmentation.


Jessica Shiu, Lihua Zhang, Griffin Lentsch, Jessica L. Flesher, Suoqin Jin, Christopher Polleys, Seong Jin Jo, Craig Mizzoni, Pezhman Mobasher, Jasmine Kwan, Francisca Rius-Diaz, Bruce J. Tromberg, Irene Georgakoudi, Qing Nie, Mihaela Balu, Anand K. Ganesan


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