Ultraviolet radiation shapes dendritic cell leukaemia transformation in the skin

Nature. 2023 Jun;618(7966):834-841. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-06156-8. Epub 2023 Jun 7.


Tumours most often arise from progression of precursor clones within a single anatomical niche. In the bone marrow, clonal progenitors can undergo malignant transformation to acute leukaemia, or differentiate into immune cells that contribute to disease pathology in peripheral tissues1-4. Outside the marrow, these clones are potentially exposed to a variety of tissue-specific mutational processes, although the consequences of this are unclear. Here we investigate the development of blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN)-an unusual form of acute leukaemia that often presents with malignant cells isolated to the skin5. Using tumour phylogenomics and single-cell transcriptomics with genotyping, we find that BPDCN arises from clonal (premalignant) haematopoietic precursors in the bone marrow. We observe that BPDCN skin tumours first develop at sun-exposed anatomical sites and are distinguished by clonally expanded mutations induced by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. A reconstruction of tumour phylogenies reveals that UV damage can precede the acquisition of alterations associated with malignant transformation, implicating sun exposure of plasmacytoid dendritic cells or committed precursors during BPDCN pathogenesis. Functionally, we find that loss-of-function mutations in Tet2, the most common premalignant alteration in BPDCN, confer resistance to UV-induced cell death in plasmacytoid, but not conventional, dendritic cells, suggesting a context-dependent tumour-suppressive role for TET2. These findings demonstrate how tissue-specific environmental exposures at distant anatomical sites can shape the evolution of premalignant clones to disseminated cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Bone Marrow Cells / metabolism
  • Bone Marrow Cells / pathology
  • Bone Marrow Cells / radiation effects
  • Cell Death / radiation effects
  • Cell Lineage / genetics
  • Cell Lineage / radiation effects
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic* / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic* / pathology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic* / radiation effects
  • Clone Cells / metabolism
  • Clone Cells / pathology
  • Clone Cells / radiation effects
  • Dendritic Cells* / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells* / pathology
  • Dendritic Cells* / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / etiology
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / genetics
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute* / pathology
  • Mutation / radiation effects
  • Organ Specificity
  • Single-Cell Gene Expression Analysis
  • Skin Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Skin Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Skin* / pathology
  • Skin* / radiation effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays* / adverse effects


  • TET2 protein, human