A new, spontaneous mouse model for autoimmune vitiligo has been created by introducing a human T cell receptor to human tyrosinase (h3T) into mice, combined with transgenic expression of the associated human HLA-A*0201 molecule. Resulting h3TA2 mice develop rapid, symmetrical and progressive depigmentation of the pelage during adolescence, and cytotoxicity of circulating mouse T cells towards pigment cells, including human HLA-A2+ melanocytes and melanoma cells, is independent of CD4 or CD8 expression. This model is very suited to devise means of interfering with an ongoing immune response to melanocytes. The hypothesis to be tested within the current proposal is that encouraging a regulatory T cell response while interfering with a contribution for inflammatory Th17 in actively depigmenting mice can halt the progression of vitiligo. Preliminary data show that regulatory T cells, important to prevent autoimmune responses, are virtually lacking from the skin of human vitiligo patients. Likewise, in the mouse model, a reduced number of Treg was detectable in the circulation of actively depigmenting mice. The first objective of the current proposal is to further characterize and optimize the new mouse model with reference to the development and abundance of CD4+ T cell subsets and regulatory responses, and by further 'humanizing'the model by crossbreeding the h3TA2 model to mice that express melanocytes in the epidermis as a consequence of SCF expression under the k14 promotor. Next it is proposed to increase the abundance of Treg in depigmenting mice by adoptive transfer of traceable FoxP3-EGFP+ Treg, and by driving the development of naive T cells towards a regulatory phenotype and function by creating a favorable cytokine environment primarily under increased TGF-beta and reduced IL-6 concentrations, which will be addressed both in culture, and within the mouse model. Under the 3rd and final aim, regulatory T cells will be redirected towards the skin by overexpressing relevant skin homing receptors including but not limited to CCR-8 and CLA and/or chemokines such as CCL-1, in order to favor immune inhibition there where depigmentation is taking place.
The project entitled 'modulating tolerance in a spontaneous mouse model of autoimmune vitiligo'addresses the lack of a regulatory T cell response in vitiligo by elevating Treg concentrations and supporting their skin homing properties while interfering with inflammatory Th17 within a newly generated mouse model that encompasses a human transgenic T cell receptor reactive with a tyrosinase peptide recognized in the context of HLA-A2: the h3T-A2 mouse.
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