Author(s): Singh ZN, Tretiakova MS, Shea CR, PetronicRosic VM
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Abstract Hypopigmented mycosis fungoides is an uncommon clinical variant of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. We hypothesized that hypomelanosis in hypopigmented mycosis fungoides may have a similar mechanism as in vitiligo, a condition in which it is believed that alterations in expression of CD117 (stem cell factor receptor/KIT protein) on epidermal melanocytes and abnormal interactions between melanocytes and surrounding keratinocytes may play a pathogenic role. To test the hypothesis that similar mechanisms might also explain hypopigmentation in hypopigmented mycosis fungoides, skin specimens from five cases each of hypopigmented mycosis fungoides and vitiligo were studied immunohistochemically for immunophenotype of the infiltrating cells, CD117 (expressed by epidermal melanocytes), and pan melanoma cocktail of antigens (gp100, tyrosinase, and MART-1) expression; cases of conventional mycosis fungoides and normal skin were studied in parallel as controls. Our findings confirm a predominance of CD8+ neoplastic T cells in hypopigmented mycosis fungoides. Similarly, the epidermal lymphocytic infiltrate in vitiligo was also composed of CD8+ cytotoxic T cells, in contrast to an epidermal infiltrate composed of CD4+ T cells in conventional mycosis fungoides. The average number of epidermal CD117 expressing cells followed the same pattern of decreased expression in hypopigmented mycosis fungoides as in vitiligo, whereas the levels in conventional mycosis fungoides were higher, and similar to that observed in normal skin. Furthermore, a decreased number of melanocytes per high-power field of the length of the biopsy was present in hypopigmented mycosis fungoides and vitiligo, as compared with either conventional mycosis fungoides or normal skin, suggesting a correlation between decreased expression of CD117 and decreased number of melanocytes. We propose that decreased expression of CD117 and its downstream events in melanocytes may be initiated by cytotoxic effects of melanosomal-antigen-specific CD8+ neoplastic T lymphocytes, resulting in destabilization of CD117 and leading to dysfunction and/or loss of melanocytes in the epidermis of hypopigmented mycosis fungoides. Published online 16 June 2006.
This article was published in Mod Pathol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research