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J Invest Dermatol. 2011 Feb;131(2):329-37. doi: 10.1038/jid.2010.313. Epub 2010 Oct 21.

EGFR and IL-1 signaling synergistically promote keratinocyte antimicrobial defenses in a differentiation-dependent manner.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.


Ligands of the EGF family regulate autocrine keratinocyte proliferation, and IL-1 family cytokines orchestrate epithelial defense responses. Although members of both families are overexpressed in wound healing and psoriasis, their roles in regulating the innate immune functions of keratinocytes remain incompletely explored. Using sensitive assays, we found significant increases of heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor, transforming growth factor-α, and amphiregulin mRNA and protein in lesional psoriasis compared with uninvolved or control skin. In normal human keratinocyte (NHK) monolayers, EGFR ligands were ineffective in inducing DEFB4, S100A7, and CCL20 mRNAs and human β-defensin (hBD)-2 peptide. Combined with IL-1α, however, EGFR ligands provoked 250 × more DEFB4 and CCL20 and a 9-fold rise in S100A7 mRNA relative to the EGFR ligand alone. This synergy was also reflected in secreted hBD-2 protein, both from NHK and reconstituted human epidermis. Keratinocyte differentiation was critical for these responses, as postconfluent NHK yielded mRNA and protein levels an order of magnitude greater than subconfluent cells. Differentiation also influenced signal transduction, with subconfluent cells using NF-κB and postconfluent cells using EGFR, MEK1/2, and p38. We propose that EGFR ligands are important modifiers of IL-1 activity, synergizing with IL-1 to stimulate epidermal production of hBD-2, S100A7, and CCL20, three of the most upregulated transcripts in psoriatic plaques.

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