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J Invest Dermatol. 2011 Dec;131(12):2419-27. doi: 10.1038/jid.2011.217. Epub 2011 Jul 21.

A human endogenous retrovirus K dUTPase triggers a TH1, TH17 cytokine response: does it have a role in psoriasis?

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  • 1Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA.


Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory immune disease of the skin characterized by a complex interplay between multiple risk genes and their interactions with environmental factors. Recent haplotype analyses have suggested that deoxyuridine triphosphate nucleotidohydrolase (dUTPase) encoded by a human endogenous retrovirus K (HERV-K) may be a candidate gene for the psoriasis susceptibility 1 locus. However, no functional studies have been conducted to determine the role of HERV-K dUTPase in psoriasis. For this purpose, we constructed an HERV-K dUTPase wild-type sequence, as well as specific mutations reflecting the genotype characteristic of high- and low-risk haplotypes, purified the recombinant proteins, and evaluated whether they could modulate innate and/or adaptive immune responses. In this study, we demonstrate that wild-type and mutant HERV-K dUTPase proteins induce the activation of NF-κB through Toll-like receptor 2, independent of enzymatic activity. Proteome array studies revealed that treatment of human primary cells with wild-type and mutant HERV-K dUTPase proteins triggered the secretion of T(H)1 and T(H)17 cytokines involved in the formation of psoriatic plaques, including IL-12p40, IL-23, IL-17, tumor necrosis factor-α, IL-8, and CCL20, in dendritic/Langerhans-like cells and to a lesser extent in keratinocytes. These data support HERV-K dUTPase as a potential contributor to psoriasis pathophysiology.

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