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J Invest Dermatol. 2007 Jun;127(6):1489-97. Epub 2007 Feb 1.

Substance P as an immunomodulatory neuropeptide in a mouse model for autoimmune hair loss (alopecia areata).

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Department of Dermatology, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.


Alopecia areata (AA) is an autoimmune disorder of the hair follicle characterized by inflammatory cell infiltrates around actively growing (anagen) hair follicles. Substance P (SP) plays a critical role in the cutaneous neuroimmune network and influences immune cell functions through the neurokinin-1 receptor (NK-1R). To better understand the role of SP as an immunomodulatory neuropeptide in AA, we studied its expression and effects on immune cells in a C3H/HeJ mouse model for AA. During early stages of AA development, the number of SP-immunoreactive nerve fibers in skin is increased, compared to non-affected mice. However, during advanced stages of AA, the number of SP-immunoreactive nerves and SP protein levels in skin are decreased, whereas the expression of the SP-degrading enzyme neutral endopeptidase (NEP) is increased, compared to control skin. In AA, NK-1R is expressed on CD8+ lymphocytes and macrophages accumulating around affected hair follicles. Additional SP supply to the skin of AA-affected mice leads to a significant increase of mast cell degranulation and to accelerated hair follicle regression (catagen), accompanied by an increase of CD8+ cells-expressing granzyme B. These data suggest that SP, NEP, and NK-1R serve as important regulators in the molecular signaling network modulating inflammatory response in autoimmune hair loss.

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