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J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Dec;115(6):1115-23.

Differential expression of cytokine mRNA in skin specimens from patients with erythema migrans or acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans.

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Division of Rheumatology/Immunology, Tufts University School of Medicine, New England Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Erythema migrans, the characteristic skin manifestation of acute Lyme borreliosis, is a self-limited lesion. In contrast, acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans, the typical cutaneous manifestation of late Lyme borreliosis, is a chronic skin condition. In an effort to understand pathogenic factors that lead to different outcomes in dermatoborrelioses, skin biopsy samples from 42 patients with erythema migrans and 27 patients with acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans were analyzed for mRNA expression of five pro-inflammatory cytokines (tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-1 beta, interleukin-6, interferon-gamma, and interleukin-2) and two anti-inflammatory cytokines (interleukin-4 and interleukin-10) by in situ hybridization with cytokine-specific riboprobes. Among the 27 patients who had erythema migrans alone with no associated signs or symptoms, the major cytokines expressed in perivascular infiltrates of T cells and macrophages were the pro-inflammatory cytokine interferon-gamma and the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-10. In the 15 erythema migrans patients who had associated signs and symptoms, including headache, elevated temperature, arthralgias, myalgias, or fatigue, a larger number of macrophages and greater expression of macrophage-derived pro-inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-1 beta, and interleukin-6, were also found. In comparison, infiltrates of T cells and macrophages in the skin lesions of acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans patients had very little or no interferon-gamma expression. Instead, they usually expressed only the pro-inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor alpha and the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-4. Thus, the activation of pro-inflammatory cytokines in erythema migrans lesions, particularly interferon-gamma, seems to be important in the control of the spirochetal infection. In contrast, the restricted pattern of cytokine expression in acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans, including the lack of interferon-gamma, may be less effective in spirochetal killing, resulting in the chronicity of this skin lesion. J Invest Dermatol 115:1115-1123 2000.

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