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Eur J Immunol. 2013 Dec;43(12):3138-46. doi: 10.1002/eji.201343801. Epub 2013 Nov 20.

TLRs to cytokines: mechanistic insights from the imiquimod mouse model of psoriasis.

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St. John's Institute of Dermatology, King's College London, London, UK.


Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease of the skin affecting 2-3% of the population, characterized by a thickening of the epidermis and immune infiltrates throughout the dermis and epidermis, causing skin lesions that can seriously affect quality of life. The study of psoriasis has historically been hampered by the lack of good animal models. Various genetically induced models exist, which have provided some information about possible mechanisms of disease, but these models rely mostly on intrinsic imbalances of homeostasis. However, a mouse model of psoriasiform dermatitis caused by the repeated topical application of Aldara™ containing 5% imiquimod was described in 2009. The mechanisms of action of Aldara™ are complex. Imiquimod is an effective ligand for TLR7 (and TLR8 in humans) and also interferes with adenosine receptor signaling. In addition, isostearic acid present in the Aldara™ vehicle has been shown to be biologically active and of importance for activating the inflammasome. Interestingly, the repetitive application of Aldara™ reveals a complex aetiology involving multiple cell types, cytokines, and inflammatory pathways. In this review, we will dissect the findings of the imiquimod model to date and ask how this model can inform us about the immunological aspects of human disease.


Animal models; Imiquimod; Psoriasis; TLR7

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