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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999 Feb;103(2 Pt 1):307-14.

Upregulation of TNF-alpha and IL-3 expression in lesional and uninvolved skin in different types of urticaria.

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  • 1Neuk├Âlln Hospital, Berlin, Germany.



Although mast cells are known to secrete a broad spectrum of proinflammatory and immunomodulatory cytokines, the role of these molecules in mast cell-dependent cutaneous inflammation is not clear.


We decided to study biopsy specimens from lesional and nonlesional skin of patients with acute, chronic recurrent, delayed pressure, and cold urticaria; from fleeting wheals of prick test reactions to allergens; and from normal skin of nonallergic subjects.


Cryostat sections were stained by immunohistochemistry with antibodies against IL-3, IL-8, TNF-alpha, and mast cell-specific tryptase. In serial sections with tryptase and each cytokine, reactivity of mast cells was studied as well.


Compared with normal skin and prick test reactions, immunoreactivity for TNF-alpha and IL-3 was significantly increased on endothelial and perivascular cells of the upper dermis in all urticaria lesions. In nonlesional skin comparable upregulation was noted on endothelial cells and for TNF-alpha on perivascular cells of patients with delayed pressure urticaria. In addition, TNF-alpha was expressed throughout the epidermis in lesional and nonlesional skin of patients with all types of urticaria, but not in normal control subjects. Sequential biopsy specimens from patients with cold urticaria showed upregulation of TNF-alpha and IL-3 on endothelial cells 30 minutes after elicitation of lesions with an ice cube. In contrast to these findings, epidermal immunoreactivity, as well as endothelial and perivascular cell expression of IL-8, were only slightly altered in urticaria compared with normal skin. In sequentially stained sections, few tryptase-positive mast cells reacted to TNF-alpha, few reacted to IL-3 in pressure urticaria only, and practically none stained for IL-8.


These findings suggest that the cytokines studied here are involved in the pathology of urticaria, possibly by inducing subthreshold inflammation in endothelial cells of uninvolved skin.

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