CD4 T cell-dependent autoimmunity against a melanocyte neoantigen induces spontaneous vitiligo and depends upon Fas-Fas ligand interactions.
Lambe T., Leung JCH., Bouriez-Jones T., Silver K., Makinen K., Crockford TL., Ferry H., Forrester JV., Cornall RJ.
Better understanding of tolerance and autoimmunity toward melanocyte-specific Ags is needed to develop effective treatment for vitiligo and malignant melanoma; yet, a systematic assessment of these mechanisms has been hampered by the difficulty in tracking autoreactive T cells. To address this issue, we have generated transgenic mice that express hen egg lysozyme as a melanocyte-specific neoantigen. By crossing these animals to a hen egg lysozyme-specific CD4 TCR transgenic line we have been able to track autoreactive CD4+ T cells from their development in the thymus to their involvement in spontaneous autoimmune disease with striking similarity to human vitiligo vulgaris and Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome. Our findings show that CD4-dependent destruction of melanocytes is partially inhibited by blocking Fas-Fas ligand interactions and also highlights the importance of local control of autoimmunity, as vitiligo remains patchy and never proceeds to confluence even when Ag and autoreactive CD4+ T cells are abundant. Immune therapy to enhance or suppress melanocyte-specific T cells can be directed at a series of semiredundant pathways involving tolerance and cell death.