The cutaneous T cell lymphomas (CTCL), typified by mycosis fungoides, and several chronic T cell mediated dermatoses are characterized by the migration of T lymphocytes into the epidermis (epidermotropism). Alternatively, other types of cutaneous inflammation (malignant cutaneous B cell lymphoma, CBCL, or lymphocytoma cutis, non-malignant T or B cell type) do not show evidence of epidermotropism. This suggests that certain T lymphocyte subpopulations are able to interact with and penetrate the epidermal basement membrane. We show here that T lymphocytes derived from patients with CTCL (HUT 78 or HUT 102 cells), adhere to the detergent-insoluble extracellular matrix prepared from cultured basal keratinocytes (HFK ECM). HUT cell adhesion to HFK ECM was inhibitable with monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) directed to the alpha 3 (P1B5) or beta 1 (P4C10) integrin receptors, and could be up-regulated by an activating anti-beta 1 mAb (P4G11). An inhibitory mAb, P3H9-2, raised against keratinocytes identified epiligrin as the ligand for alpha 3 beta 1 positive T cells in HFK ECM. Interestingly, two lymphocyte populations could be clearly distinguished relative to expression of alpha 3 beta 1 by flow cytometry analysis. Lymphokine activated killer cells, alloreactive cytotoxic T cells and T cells derived from patients with CTCL expressed high levels of alpha 3 beta 1 (alpha 3 beta 1high). Non-adherent peripheral blood mononuclear cells, acute T or B lymphocytic leukemias, or non-cutaneous T or B lymphocyte cell lines expressed low levels of alpha 3 beta 1 (alpha 3 beta 1low). Resting PBL or alpha 3 beta 1low T or B cell lines did not adhere to HFK ECM or purified epiligrin. However, adhesion to epiligrin could be up-regulated by mAbs which activate the beta 1 subunit indicating that alpha 3 beta 1 activity is a function of expression and affinity. In skin derived from patients with graft-vs.-host (GVH) disease, experimentally induced delayed hypersensitivity reactions, and CTCL, the infiltrating T cells could be stained with mAbs to alpha 3 or beta 1 and were localized in close proximity to the epiligrin-containing basement membrane. Infiltrating lymphocytes in malignant cutaneous B disease (CBCL) did not express alpha 3 beta 1 by immunohistochemical techniques and did not associate with the epidermal basement membrane. The present findings clearly define a function for alpha 3 beta 1 in T cells and strongly suggest that alpha 3 beta 1 interaction with epiligrin may be involved in the pathogenesis of cutaneous inflammation.

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