Liu Q, Zaba LC, Satpathy AT, Longmire M, Zhang W, Li K, Granja J, Guo C, Lin J, Li R, Tolentino K, Kania G, Distler O, Fiorentino D, Chung L, Qu K, Chang HY.
Nature Communications, 17 November 2020

Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a disease at the intersection of autoimmunity and fibrosis. However, the epigenetic regulation and the contributions of diverse cell types to SSc remain unclear. Here we survey, using ATAC-seq, the active DNA regulatory elements of eight types of primary cells in normal skin from healthy controls, as well as clinically affected and unaffected skin from SSc patients. We find that accessible DNA elements in skin-resident dendritic cells (DCs) exhibit the highest enrichment of SSc-associated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and predict the degrees of skin fibrosis in patients. DCs also have the greatest disease-associated changes in chromatin accessibility and the strongest alteration of cell-cell interactions in SSc lesions. Lastly, data from an independent cohort of patients with SSc confirm a significant increase of DCs in lesioned skin. Thus, the DCs epigenome links inherited susceptibility and clinically apparent fibrosis in SSc skin, and can be an important driver of SSc pathogenesis.