Sézary syndrome (SS) is a rare form of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) characterized by a distinct metastatic pattern mainly involving blood and skin. Chemokines and their receptors play a critical role in cellular recruitment and homing to tissues and in the metastatic process of several tumors including non-Hodgkin T-cell lymphomas (NHLs). Here we report that SS cells express a functionally active CXCR4 and that its ligand SDF-1 is abundantly produced in the skin, which represents the main destination of SS cell spreading. SDF-1 is normally inactivated by proteolytic cleavage by the CD26/dipeptidylpeptidase IV (DPPIV). The lack of CD26 from the cell surface is a hallmark of circulating SS cells. We also show that the CD26- phenotype is maintained also in skin-infiltrating neoplastic T lymphocytes and that SS-affected individuals exhibit a reduced activity of plasma soluble CD26. Finally, we observe that the addition of soluble CD26 reduces the migratory response of SS cells to SDF-1 whereas the inhibition of the CD26 peptidase activity in Hut78, a CD26+ CTCL cell line, enhances the SDF-1-induced migration of these cells. Our findings suggest that the SDF-1-CXCR4 axis could play an important role in skin homing of SS through the regulatory activity of CD26.
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