Demodex mites are commensal parasites of hair follicles (HFs). Normally asymptomatic, inflammatory outgrowth of mites can accompany malnutrition, immune dysfunction, and aging, but mechanisms restricting Demodex outgrowth are not defined. Here, we show that control of mite HF colonization in mice required group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s), interleukin-13 (IL-13), and its receptor, IL-4Ra-IL-13Ra1. HF-associated ILC2s elaborated IL-13 that attenuated HFs and epithelial proliferation at anagen onset; in their absence, Demodex colonization led to increased epithelial proliferation and replacement of gene programs for repair by aberrant inflammation, leading to the loss of barrier function and HF exhaustion. Humans with rhinophymatous acne rosacea, an inflammatory condition associated with Demodex, had increased HF inflammation with decreased type 2 cytokines, consistent with the inverse relationship seen in mice. Our studies uncover a key role for skin ILC2s and IL-13, which comprise an immune checkpoint that sustains cutaneous integrity and restricts pathologic infestation by colonizing HF mites.
Keywords: Demodex mites; IL-13; ILC2; barrier function; hair follicle stem cell; innate immunity; rhinophyma; skin homeostasis; tissue immunity; type 2 immunity.
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