, Volume 285, Issue 6, pp 341-346

Immunohistochemical analysis of sensory nerves and neuropeptides, and their contacts with mast cells in developing and mature psoriatic lesions

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The distribution of the neuropeptides substance P (SP), vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) and calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP) was studied immunohistochemically in psoriatic skin during the Koebner response (6 h, 2 days, 7 days, 14 days, 21 days), and in mature psoriatic plaques, of 37 psoriatic patients. The morphological association of sensory nerves, SP and VIP with papillary mast cells was also monitored. The nerves containing SP, VIP or CGRP were very scanty in control skin, and in non-lesional and Koebner-negative psoriatic skin. The first psoriatic lesions were seen 7 days after tape stripping the symptomless psoriatic skin. SP- and VIP-containing nerves were slightly increased in Koebner-positive specimens, but the increase was very prominent in dermal papillae of mature psoriatic plaques. In the plaques, nerve-mast cell contacts were significantly increased (p<0.001) compared with non-lesional psoriatic skin. Only SP-positive fibres were detected in the epidermis and in contact with papillary mast cells. VIP was mainly located around capillaries where SP was also found. No change was noted in CGRP-positive fibres between lesional and non-lesional specimens. The appearance of SP and VIP in the capillary walls is morphological evidence for their function as vasodilators in psoriatic lesion. A slight increase in SP- and VIP-positive fibres in Koebner-positive specimens suggests that these neuropeptides may participate in the inflammatory reaction at an early stage. Their prominence in mature psoriatic plaques in turn indicates a role for them in the maintenance of psoriatic lesions. Morphological contacts between mast cells and SP-containing nerves give further evidence to the view that SP is capable of amplifying the inflammatory reaction also through the axon-reflex mechanism.

Part of this work was presented at the meeting of the European Society for Dermatological Research, London, UK, 4–7 April 1992