Psoriasis is a common chronic skin disease mediated by cellular immune mechanisms and characterized by an intense neutrophil cell infiltrate and proliferative activation of epidermal keratinocytes. We have previously described the expression of the inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in epidermal keratinocytes of psoriatic skin lesions. In this study, the role of iNOS in psoriatic inflammation was explored ex vivo in psoriatic skin biopsies and in vitro in primary cultures of human keratinocytes. Messenger RNA for the iNOS enzyme (iNOS mRNA) was detected by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction in skin biopsies from patients with psoriasis, but not in skin specimens from patients with atopic eczema or from healthy volunteers. As demonstrated by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry, expression of iNOS mRNA and its gene product was localized to the epidermal keratinocytes of psoriatic skin lesions. In situ hybridization further revealed a complete colocalization of mRNA expression for iNOS with interleukin (IL) 8 receptor-specific mRNA either in the basal germinative cell layer or at focal sites of ongoing neutrophil inflammation in suprabasal cell layers. Because psoriatic keratinocytes have previously been shown to express mRNA transcripts for IL-8, it seemed reasonable to hypothesize that iNOS expression could be induced in an autocrine loop by IL-8. This hypothesis was substantiated by our in vitro experiments showing that a combination of IL-8 and interferon gamma induces the expression of iNOS-specific mRNA and of the functional enzyme in cultured human keratinocytes. These results suggest an important role for iNOS in concert with IL-8 and its receptor early during the formation of psoriatic lesions.

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