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Inflammatory skin conditions are increasingly recognised as being associated with systemic inflammation. The mechanisms connecting the cutaneous and systemic disease are not well understood. CD1a is a virtually monomorphic major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I-like molecule, highly expressed by skin and mucosal Langerhans cells, and presents lipid antigens to T-cells. Here we show an important role for CD1a in linking cutaneous and systemic inflammation in two experimental disease models. In human CD1a transgenic mice, the toll-like receptor (TLR)7 agonist imiquimod induces more pronounced splenomegaly, expansion of the peripheral blood and spleen T cell compartments, and enhanced neutrophil and eosinophil responses compared to the wild-type, accompanied by elevated skin and plasma cytokine levels, including IL-23, IL-1α, IL-1β, MCP-1 and IL-17A. Similar systemic escalation is shown in MC903-induced skin inflammation. The exacerbated inflammation could be counter-acted by CD1a-blocking antibodies, developed and screened in our laboratories. The beneficial effect is epitope dependent, and we further characterise the five best-performing antibodies for their capacity to modulate CD1a-expressing cells and ameliorate CD1a-dependent systemic inflammatory responses. In summary, we show that a therapeutically targetable CD1a-dependent pathway may play a role in the systemic spread of cutaneous inflammation.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature communications

Publication Date





MRC Human Immunology Unit, MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.