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.