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Int Immunopharmacol. 2006 Mar;6(3):358-68. Epub 2005 Oct 3.

Budesonide, but not tacrolimus, affects the immune functions of normal human keratinocytes.

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Department of Clinical Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary.


Topical immunosuppressant therapy is widely used in the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. Besides its beneficial therapeutic effects, application of topical anti-inflammatory drugs may render the epidermis more vulnerable to invading pathogens by suppressing innate immune responses in keratinocytes, such as cytokine production and Toll-like receptor (TLR) expression. In order to evaluate and compare the immunosuppressive effects of different immunosuppressant drugs on keratinocytes, we treated lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated and -unstimulated normal human keratinocytes with the synthetic corticosteroid budesonide and the macrolide tacrolimus. The expressions of the pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) TLR2 and TLR4 were measured by quantitative RT-PCR, pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-1alpha, IL-8 and TNF-alpha were monitored by quantitative RT-PCR and by ELISA, and alterations in TLR2 protein level were measured by flow cytometry. Budesonide had a suppressive effect on both constitutive and LPS-induced IL-8 gene expression. The amount of TNF-alpha mRNA was diminished in unstimulated keratinocytes, while TLR2 mRNA expression was markedly enhanced both in unstimulated and LPS-treated cells after incubation with budesonide. This increase in TLR2 mRNA expression was also detectable at the protein level in LPS-stimulated cells. Tacrolimus had no effect on any of the examined genes. Budesonide, but not tacrolimus, significantly inhibited the NF-kappaB-dependent luciferase reporter activity in HaCaT cells after induction with LPS or TNF-alpha. Although tacrolimus and budesonide are both effective treatments in some inflammatory skin diseases, the data provided here imply differences in local therapeutic and adverse effects of these two topical immunosuppressants.

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