Contact hypersensitivity is a CD8 T cell-mediated response to hapten sensitization and challenge of the skin. Effector CD8 T cell recruitment into the skin parenchyma to elicit the response to hapten challenge requires prior CXCL1/KC-directed neutrophil infiltration within 3-6 h after challenge and is dependent on IFN-γ and IL-17 produced by the hapten-primed CD8 T cells. Mechanisms directing hapten-primed CD8 T cell localization and activation in the Ag challenge site to induce this early CXCL1 production in response to 2,4-dinitrofluorobenzene were investigated. Both TNF-α and IL-17, but not IFN-γ, mRNA was detectable within 1 h of hapten challenge of sensitized mice and increased thereafter. Expression of ICAM-1 was observed by 1 h after challenge of sensitized and nonsensitized mice and was dependent on TNF-α. The induction of IL-17, IFN-γ, and CXCL1 in the challenge site was not observed when ICAM-1 was absent or neutralized by specific Ab. During the elicitation of the contact hypersensitivity response, endothelial cells expressed ICAM-1 and produced CXCL1 suggesting this as the site of CD8 T cell localization and activation. Endothelial cells isolated from challenged skin of naive and sensitized mice had acquired the hapten and the ability to activate hapten-primed CD8 T cell cytokine production. These results indicate that hapten application to the skin of sensitized animals initiates an inflammatory response promoting hapten-primed CD8 T cell localization to the challenge site through TNF-α-induced ICAM-1 expression and CD8 T cell activation to produce IFN-γ and IL-17 through endothelial cell presentation of hapten.
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