Alopecia areata (AA) is a common autoimmune disorder affecting millions of people worldwide, which manifests as a sudden, non-scarring hair loss. The expression of a pro-inflammatory cytokine, interferon-gamma (INF-γ), has been well established to be involved in the development of AA. As IFN-γ and other cytokines are also known to up-regulate programmed cell death ligand 1 and 2 (PD-L1 and PD-L2), which both negatively control immune responses, we asked whether or not a high number of infiltrated T cells, seen in AA lesions, can modulate the expression of PD-L1 and PD-L2 in skin cells. From a series of experiments, we showed that a significantly higher number of PD-L1 or PD-L2 positive cells affect the skin in AA mice, compared to the skin of non-AA mice. The number of PD-L1 positive cells was well correlated with the number of infiltrated T cells, especially CD8+ T cells. We also found that the expression of PD-L1 and PD-L2 was co-localized with type 1 pro-collagen, CD90 and vimentin, which are biomarkers for dermal fibroblasts. Further studies revealed that releasable factors from activated, but not inactivated, lymphocytes significantly increase the expressions of both PD-L1 and PD-L2 in cultured dermal fibroblasts. In conclusion, our findings suggest that the expression of PD-L1 and PD-L2 in dermal fibroblasts is up-regulated by activated T cells in AA-affected skin, and as such, these regulatory molecules may not exert a negative control of the immune activation seen in AA lesions.
Keywords: alopecia areata; fibroblasts; lymphocytes; mouse; programmed cell death ligand.
© 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.