Graft-versus-host disease of the skin: Life and death on the epidermal edge

Craig C. Hofmeister, Adam Quinn, Kenneth R. Cooke, Patrick Stiff, Brian Nickoloff, James L.M. Ferrara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Despite impressive advances in the field of allogeneic hematopoietic transplantation, graft versus host disease (GVHD) remains a significant obstacle to be overcome; it would enhance the safety and efficacy of this life-saving therapy. This review provides a framework for understanding the molecular and cellular basis underlying GVHD. We propose a 3-phase model of GVHD that highlights the importance of the conditioning regimen on the recipient tissues administered prior to infusion of donor bone marrow inoculum. A novel skin explant model, designed to take into consideration the immunobiological consequences of conditioning regimens on resident host cells, is proposed to advance our understanding of GVHD and serve as a potential prognostic tool when allogeneic recipient/donor combinations are being contemplated in the clinic. Within this review, specific emphasis is placed on the importance of defining the apoptotic machinery engaged in epidermal keratinocytes triggered by both conditioning regimens, and by host resident and recruited immunocytes and soluble mediators produced at sites of injury. The review is completed with a working model for cutaneous GVHD. Although the skin is highlighted because of its accessibility for clinical observations and serial sampling opportunities, lessons learned from studies of cutaneous GVHD are likely to provide valuable insights into GVHD occurring in the gastrointestinal tract, lung, and liver. With new insights designed to better predict and prevent GVHD and novel agents designed to treat GVHD, overcoming this current impediment to successful bone marrow transplantation should become increasingly feasible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-372
Number of pages7
JournalBiology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Conditioning regimens
  • Cytokine storm
  • Dendritic (antigen presenting) cells
  • Skin explant assay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Transplantation


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