HCV poly U/UC sequence-induced inflammation leads to metabolic disorders in vulvar lichen sclerosis

Life Sci Alliance. 2021 Jun 18;4(8):e202000906. doi: 10.26508/lsa.202000906. Print 2021 Aug.


Vulvar lichen sclerosis (VLS) is a dermatologic disorder that affects women worldwide. Women with VLS have white, atrophic papules on the vulva. They suffer from life-long intense pruritus. Corticosteroids are the first-line of treatments and the most effective medicines for VLS. Although VLS has been speculated as an autoimmune disease for a long time, its pathogenesis and the molecular mechanism is largely unknown. We performed a comprehensive multi-omics analysis of paired samples from VLS patients as well as healthy donors. From the RNA-seq analysis, we found that VLS is correlated to abnormal antivirus response because of the presence of Hepatitis C Virus poly U/UC sequences. Lipidomic and metabolomic analysis revealed that inflammation-induced metabolic disorders of fatty acids and glutathione were likely the reasons for pruritus, atrophy, and pigment loss in the vulva. Thus, the present study provides an initial interpretation of the pathogenesis and molecular mechanism of VLS and suggests that metabolic disorders that affect the vulva may serve as therapeutic targets for VLS.