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J Invest Dermatol. 2001 Feb;116(2):203-8.

Inhibition of dendritic cell differentiation by fumaric acid esters.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Kiel, Schittenhelmstr. 7, 24105 Kiel, Germany.


Fumaric acid esters have proved to be effective for the systemic treatment of severe psoriasis vulgaris. These compounds have been shown to induce a Th2-like cytokine secretion pattern in T cells and to reduce keratinocyte proliferation in vitro. Dendritic cells seem to be of major importance as regulatory cells driving the psoriatic tissue reaction. Monocytes or CD34-positive myeloid progenitor cells are precursors of dendritic cells that can be generated in vitro by culture with granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor and interleukin-4. Using this model the effect of fumaric acid esters on granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor/interleukin-4-induced differentiation of monocyte-derived dendritic cells was investigated. The results of this study show that dimethylfumarate as well as methylhydrogenfumarate-calcium-salt (0.01-100 microg per ml) concentration-dependently inhibit monocyte-derived dendritic cell differentiation. This was reflected by an inhibition of CD1a, CD40, CD80, CD86, and HLA-DR expression as well as by a reduced capacity of dimethylfumarate-treated monocyte-derived dendritic cells to stimulate lymphocytes in the allogeneic mixed lymphocyte reaction. Other fumaric acid esters showed no effect on monocyte-derived dendritic cell-differentiation. At higher concentrations (30-100 microg per ml) dimethylfumarate, but not methylhydrogenfumarate calcium-salt induced apoptosis in monocyte-derived dendritic cells as measured by expression of Apo 2.7 and DNA fragmentation (TUNEL assay). These data point to a high susceptibility of the monocyte/dendritic cell system to dimethylfumarate and its main metabolite methylhydrogenfumarate. Other fumaric acid esters investigated were without effect. As the effects of fumarates on monocyte-derived dendritic cells observed occur at concentrations 20-fold lower compared with lymphocytes, our data seem to be of relevance in explaining the possible mode of action of these compounds in psoriasis.

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