Alopecia areata in C3H/HeJ mice involves leukocyte-mediated root sheath disruption in advance of overt hair loss.

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Animals, CD4-Lymphocyte-Count, CD4-Positive-T-Lymphocytes, CD8-Positive-T-Lymphocytes, Comparative-Study, Folliculitis, Hair-Follicle, Immunohistochemistry, Mice, Mice-Inbred-C3H, Microscopy-Electron, Skin-Transplantation

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Vet Pathol 2003 Nov; 40(6):643-50.


Alopecia areata (AA) can be induced in C3H/HeJ mice by grafting full-thickness AA-affected skin. An 8- to 12-week delay between surgery and overt hair loss onset provides an opportunity to examine disease pathogenesis. Normal haired C3H/HeJ mice were sham-grafted or grafted with AA-affected skin. Mice were euthanatized 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 weeks after surgery along with chronic AA-affected mice as a positive control. Until 6 weeks after grafting, inflammation was only evident around anagen-stage hair follicles in host skin adjacent to but not distant from the AA-affected graft. From 8 weeks on, AA-grafted but not sham-grafted mice exhibited a diffuse dermal inflammation at distant sites that progressively focused on anagen-stage hair follicles at 10 and 12 weeks. Perifollicular inflammation was primarily composed of CD4+ and CD8+ cells associated with follicular epithelium intercellular adhesion molecule -1 expression. Only CD8+ cells penetrated intrafollicularly by 12 weeks after surgery, although both CD4+ and CD8+ intrafollicular cells were observed in chronic AA-affected mice. Under electron microscopy, intrafollicular lymphocyte and macrophage infiltration associated with hair follicle dystrophy was prominent 10 weeks after surgery, primarily within the differentiating outer and inner root sheaths. This study shows that focal follicular inflammation develops some time in advance of overt hair loss and focuses on the differentiating root sheaths in C3H/HeJ mice. The severity of inflammation and the degree of hair follicle dystrophy induced by the infiltrate appear to reach a threshold level before overt hair loss occurs.