Our paper led by first-author Eric Peterman is now published in Disease Models & Mechanisms. In this study we set out to identify phagocyte responses to axon degeneration in adult skin. A few highlights:

  • We use pharmacology to show that ‘scale plucking’ (a simple skin explant method) leads to Wallerian degeneration of somatosensory axons in adult skin.
  • We show that keratinocytes, which mediate axon clearance in larval stages, are largely dispensable for axon clearance in adult stages. Instead, our results implicate Langerhans cells, a type of tissue-resident macrophage, in adult clearance.
  • We demonstrate that the developmental switch in axon clearance duties from keratinocytes to Langerhans cells does not arise by Langerhans cells inhibiting keratinocytes from performing phagocytosis.

Overall, our in vivo and ex vivo models are likely to be impactful for dissecting how Langerhans cells respond to damage and disease at the cellular and molecular levels because they are amenable to live-cell imaging and pharmacological manipulation. Congratulations to all the co-authors!