scRNA-seq unveils universal MAPK activation in circulating cells and potential therapeutic mechanisms of BRAF inhibitor in pediatric LCH.
Decreased frequency of circulating pDCs is significantly associated with disease severity in pediatric LCH.
Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH) is an inflammatory myeloid neoplasm caused by aberrant activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway. Circulating myeloid cells from patients often carry disease-associated mutations and can be differentiated into langerinhigh LCH-like cells in vitro, but their detailed immune-phenotypic and molecular profiles are lacking and could shed key insights into disease biology. Here we recruited 217 pediatric LCH patients and took blood and tissue samples for BRAFV600E analysis. Immune-phenotyping of the circulating Lin−HLA-DR+ immune population in 49 of these patients revealed that decreased frequency of plasmacytoid dendritic cells was significantly linked to disease severity. By single-cell RNA sequencing of samples from 14 patients, we identified key changes in expression of RAS-MAPK-extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) signaling-related genes and transcription factors in distinct members of the mononuclear phagocyte system in the presence of BRAFV600E. Moreover, treatment of patients with the BRAF inhibitor dabrafenib resulted in MAPK cascade inhibition, inflammation prevention, and regulation of cellular metabolism within mononuclear phagocytes. Finally, we also observed elevated expression of RAS-MAPK-ERK signaling-related genes in a CD207+CD1a+ cell subcluster in skin. Taken together, our data extend the molecular understanding of LCH biology at single-cell resolution, which might contribute to improvement of clinical diagnostics and therapeutics, and aid in the development of personalized medicine approaches.