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J Invest Dermatol. 2011 Mar;131(3):735-43. doi: 10.1038/jid.2010.317. Epub 2010 Nov 18.

Nerve growth factor partially recovers inflamed skin from stress-induced worsening in allergic inflammation.

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Charité Center 12 (CC12) for Internal Medicine and Dermatology, Department of Psychosomatics, Psychoneuroimmunology of the Skin, Charité-University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany.


Neuroimmune dysregulation characterizes atopic disease, but its nature and clinical impact remain ill-defined. Induced by stress, the neurotrophin nerve growth factor (NGF) may worsen cutaneous inflammation. We therefore studied the role of NGF in the cutaneous stress response in a mouse model for atopic dermatitis-like allergic dermatitis (AlD). Combining several methods, we found that stress increased cutaneous but not serum or hypothalamic NGF in telogen mice. Microarray analysis showed increased mRNAs of inflammatory and growth factors associated with NGF in the skin. In stress-worsened AlD, NGF-neutralizing antibodies markedly reduced epidermal thickening together with NGF, neurotrophin receptor (tyrosine kinase A and p75 neurotrophin receptor), and transforming growth factor-β expression by keratinocytes but did not alter transepidermal water loss. Moreover, NGF expression by mast cells was reduced; this corresponded to reduced cutaneous tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) mRNA levels but not to changes in mast cell degranulation or in the T helper type 1 (Th1)/Th2 cytokine balance. Also, eosinophils expressed TNF receptor type 2, and we observed reduced eosinophil infiltration after treatment with NGF-neutralizing antibodies. We thus conclude that NGF acts as a local stress mediator in perceived stress and allergy and that increased NGF message contributes to worsening of cutaneous inflammation mainly by enhancing epidermal hyperplasia, pro-allergic cytokine induction, and allergy-characteristic cellular infiltration.

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