Autologous Th2-polarized lymphocytes induce atopic dermatitis lesions in non-atopic human skin xenotransplants

Allergy. 2023 Jun;78(6):1538-1553. doi: 10.1111/all.15635. Epub 2023 Mar 25.


Background: The key signals that suffice to induce atopic dermatitis (AD) in human skin remain incompletely understood. Also, current mouse models reflect human AD only unsatisfactorily. Therefore, we have asked whether a humanized AD mouse model can be developed that reflects human AD more faithfully and permit to identify key signals that suffice to induce AD lesions in previously healthy human skin in vivo.

Methods: Healthy human skin from non-atopic donors was transplanted onto SCID/beige mice. After xenotransplant reinnervation by mouse sensory nerve fibers had occurred, mixed autologous human Th2 CD4+ and Tc2 CD8+ T cells that had been pretreated in vitro with IL-2, IL-4, and LPS were injected intradermally into the xenotransplants without skin barrier disruption.

Results: Injected non-atopic xenotransplants rapidly developed a morphological, functional, and immunological phenocopy of human AD lesions regarding skin barrier defects, immunopathology including intraepidermal eosinophils, mast cell activation, increase of thymic stromal lymphopoietin, eotaxin-1 and type 2 cytokine circuits, and even showed characteristic neuroimmunological abnormalities such as ß2-adrenergic receptor downregulation. The experimentally induced AD lesions in human skin responded to standard AD therapy (topical dexamethasone or tacrolimus; systemic anti-IL-4Rα antibody [dupilumab]), and relapsed when neurogenic skin inflammation was induced by exposing mice to perceived stress.

Conclusions: This new animal model uniquely mimics the complexity of human AD and its clinical response to standard therapy and psychoemotional stressors in vivo, and shows that Th2-polarized lymphocytes associated with excessive IL-4Rα-mediated signaling suffice to induce human AD skin lesions, while atopy and epidermal barrier disruption are dispensable.

Keywords: IL-2; IL-4; LPS; SCID mice; perceived stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dermatitis, Atopic*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, SCID
  • Skin / pathology


  • Cytokines