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J Invest Dermatol. 2002 Apr;118(4):728-33.

Drug specific cytotoxic T-cells in the skin lesions of a patient with toxic epidermal necrolysis.

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INSERM U 448 Department of Dermatology, Hôpital H Mondor, Université Paris XII, Créteil, France.


Toxic epidermal necrolysis is an extremely severe drug reaction, manifesting itself by widespread apoptosis of keratinocytes, generally considered to result from Fas/CD95-FasLigand interaction, but of unknown primary mechanism. We looked at the role of cells present in the skin blisters as probable effectors of this immune reaction. In a patient suffering from cotrimoxazole-induced toxic epidermal necrolysis, blister fluid cells were phenotyped by FACS and tested without prior restimulation for cytotoxicity on autologous and allogeneic cells in the presence of the drug. Blister fluid lymphocytes were predominantly CD8+, DR+, CLA+, CD56+ T lymphocytes, perforin positive and expressing preferentially two Vbeta chains of the T cell receptor repertoire. These lymphocytes were cytotoxic only in the presence of the drug towards autologous EBV transformed lymphocytes and towards allogeneic cells sharing HLA-Cw4. Cytotoxicity occurred in the presence of either cotrimoxazole, sulfamethoxazole, or the nitroso metabolite of sulfamethoxazole, but not with the hydroxylamine metabolite of sulfamethoxazole. The lysis was blocked by an anti-MHC class I monoclonal antibody. It was abolished by EGTA and CMA, but neither by anti-fas, brefeldin A, nor by anti-TRAIL receptor monoclonal antibodies, strongly suggesting perforin/granzyme-mediated cytotoxicity, without implication of Fas or TRAIL at this stage. This is direct evidence that T lymphocytes present within the lesions of toxic epidermal necrolysis may exhibit, without any re-stimulation, a drug-specific cytotoxicity against autologous cells. Harboring the markers of classical CTL and MHC class I restriction these lymphocytes reacted against the parent drug and one of its reactive metabolites. These results challenge several current concepts and could support new therapeutic approaches.

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