Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) may award relative protection from interferon-γ-induced collapse of human hair follicle immune privilege

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Interferon-γ (IFNγ)-induced collapse of hair follicle (HF) immune privilege (IP) is a key element in the pathogenesis of alopecia areata. In this pilot study, we investigated whether the immunosuppressive neuropeptide, calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), can protect from and/or restore IFNγ-induced HF-IP collapse. After showing that human scalp HFs express CGRP receptor-like receptor (CRLR) immunoreactivity, anagen HFs were cultured in the presence of IFNγ, with CGRP added before or after. Adding CGRP after IFNγ administration (‘restoration assay’) failed to downregulate IFNγ-induced ectopic MHC class I expression, while MHC class II expression was reduced. However, administering CGRP before IFNγ application (‘protection assay’) significantly reduced the IFNγ-induced overexpression and ectopic expression of MHC class I and II and reduced the increased degranulation of perifollicular mast cells induced by IFNγ. This suggests that CGRP may not restore HF-IP once it has collapsed, but may protect it from collapsing. Therefore, CRLR stimulation might help to retard AA progression.

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