Hair follicle-derived IL-7 and IL-15 mediate skin-resident memory T cell homeostasis and lymphoma

Nat Med. 2015 Nov;21(11):1272-9. doi: 10.1038/nm.3962. Epub 2015 Oct 19.


The skin harbors a variety of resident leukocyte subsets that must be tightly regulated to maintain immune homeostasis. Hair follicles are unique structures in the skin that contribute to skin dendritic cell homeostasis through chemokine production. We demonstrate that CD4(+) and CD8(+) skin-resident memory T cells (TRM cells), which are responsible for long-term skin immunity, reside predominantly within the hair follicle epithelium of the unperturbed epidermis. TRM cell tropism for the epidermis and follicles is herein termed epidermotropism. Hair follicle expression of IL-15 was required for CD8(+) TRM cells, and IL-7 for CD8(+) and CD4(+) TRM cells, to exert epidermotropism. A lack of either cytokine in the skin led to impaired hapten-induced contact hypersensitivity responses. In a model of cutaneous T cell lymphoma, epidermotropic CD4(+) TRM lymphoma cell localization depended on the presence of hair follicle-derived IL-7. These findings implicate hair follicle-derived cytokines as regulators of malignant and non-malignant TRM cell tissue residence, and they suggest that the cytokines may be targeted therapeutically in inflammatory skin diseases and lymphoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Movement
  • Epidermis / immunology*
  • Hair Follicle / cytology
  • Hair Follicle / immunology*
  • Haptens
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-15 / immunology*
  • Interleukin-7 / immunology*
  • Keratinocytes / immunology*
  • Langerhans Cells / immunology
  • Lymphoma, T-Cell, Cutaneous / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Haptens
  • Interleukin-15
  • Interleukin-7