Human skin-resident host T cells can persist long term after allogeneic stem cell transplantation and maintain recirculation potential

de Almeida, G.P., Lichtner, P., Eckstein, G., Brinkschmidt, T., Chu, C.F., Sun, S., Reinhard, J., Madler, S.C., Kloeppel, M., Verbeek, M., Zielinski, C.E. (2022). Sci Immunol 7, eabe2634.



Tissue-resident memory T cells (TRM) have recently emerged as crucial cellular players for host defense in a wide variety of tissues and barrier sites. Insights into the maintenance and regulatory checkpoints of human TRM cells remain scarce, especially due to the difficulties associated with tracking T cells through time and space in humans. We therefore sought to identify and characterize skin-resident T cells in humans defined by their long-term in situ lodgment. Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (allo-HSCT) preceded by myeloablative chemotherapy unmasked long-term sequestration of host T cell subsets in human skin despite complete donor T cell chimerism in the blood. Single-cell chimerism analysis paired with single-cell transcriptional profiling comprehensively characterized these bona fide long-term skin-resident T cells and revealed differential tissue maintenance for distinct T cell subsets, specific TRM cell markers such as galectin-3, but also tissue exit potential with retention of the transcriptomic TRM cell identity. Analysis of 26 allo-HSCT patients revealed profound interindividual variation in the tissue maintenance of host skin T cells. The long-term persistence of host skin T cells in a subset of these patients did not correlate with the development of chronic GvHD. Our data exemplify the power of exploiting a clinical situation as a proof of concept for the existence of bona fide human skin TRM cells and reveal long-term persistence of host T cells in a peripheral tissue but not in the circulation or bone marrow in a subset of allo-HSCT patients.