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Identification of Keratinocyte Mitogens: Implications for Hyperproliferation in Psoriasis and Atopic Dermatitis

  • Author Footnotes
    2 These authors contributed equally to this work.
    Hanna Niehues
    Correspondence
    Correspondence: Hanna Niehues, Department of Dermatology, Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc), Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS), Rene Descartesdreef 1, Nijmegen 6525 GL, The Netherlands.
    Footnotes
    2 These authors contributed equally to this work.
    Affiliations
    Department of Dermatology, Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc), Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS), Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Author Footnotes
    2 These authors contributed equally to this work.
    Gijs Rikken
    Footnotes
    2 These authors contributed equally to this work.
    Affiliations
    Department of Dermatology, Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc), Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS), Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Ivonne M.J.J. van Vlijmen-Willems
    Affiliations
    Department of Dermatology, Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc), Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS), Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Diana Rodijk-Olthuis
    Affiliations
    Department of Dermatology, Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc), Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS), Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Piet E.J. van Erp
    Affiliations
    Department of Dermatology, Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc), Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS), Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Patrick L.J.M. Zeeuwen
    Affiliations
    Department of Dermatology, Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc), Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS), Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Joost Schalkwijk
    Affiliations
    Department of Dermatology, Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc), Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS), Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Ellen H. van den Bogaard
    Affiliations
    Department of Dermatology, Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc), Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences (RIMLS), Nijmegen, The Netherlands
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  • Author Footnotes
    2 These authors contributed equally to this work.
Open AccessPublished:October 21, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xjidi.2021.100066
      Psoriasis and atopic dermatitis are chronic inflammatory skin diseases characterized by keratinocyte (KC) hyperproliferation and epidermal acanthosis (hyperplasia). The milieu of disease-associated cytokines and soluble factors is considered a mitogenic factor; however, pinpointing the exact mitogens in this complex microenvironment is challenging. We employed organotypic human epidermal equivalents, faithfully mimicking native epidermal proliferation and stratification, to evaluate the proliferative effects of a broad panel of (literature-based) potential mitogens. The KC GF molecule, the T-helper 2 cytokines IL-4 and IL-13, and the psoriasis-associated cytokine IL-17A caused acanthosis by hyperplasia through a doubling in the number of proliferating KCs. In contrast, IFN-γ lowered proliferation, whereas IL-6, IL-20, IL-22, and oncostatin M induced acanthosis not by hyperproliferation but by hypertrophy. The T-helper 2‒cytokine‒mediated hyperproliferation was Jak/signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 dependent, whereas IL-17A and KC GF induced MAPK/extracellular signal‒regulated kinase kinase/extracellular signal‒regulated kinase‒dependent proliferation. This discovery that key regulators in atopic dermatitis and psoriasis are direct KC mitogens not only adds evidence to their crucial role in the pathophysiological processes but also highlights an additional therapeutic pillar for the mode of action of targeting biologicals (e.g., dupilumab) or small-molecule drugs (e.g., tofacitinib) by the normalization of KC turnover within the epidermal compartment.

      Abbreviations:

      3D (three-dimensional), AD (atopic dermatitis), EdU (5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine), ERK (extracellular signal‒regulated kinase), HEE (human epidermal equivalent), KC (keratinocyte), KGF (keratinocyte GF), MEK (MAPK/ extracellular signal‒regulated kinase kinase), STAT (signal transducer and activator of transcription), Th (T helper)

      Introduction

      Keratinocytes (KCs) are the major cell type of the epidermis and maintain its structural integrity, contribute to the barrier function of the skin, and regulate immunological cues as part of the innate immune system. KC proliferation is vital for physiological epidermal renewal and for epidermal regeneration after wounding. In this process, interfollicular epidermal stem cells give rise to transit-amplifying cells in the basal layer of the epidermis. After proliferation, daughter cells exit the cell cycle, start to differentiate, and move upward through the stratum spinosum and stratum granulosum to finally end up as terminally differentiated corneocytes before shedding from the skin surface (
      • Lechler T.
      • Fuchs E.
      Asymmetric cell divisions promote stratification and differentiation of mammalian skin.
      ;
      • Weinstein G.D.
      • McCullough J.L.
      • Ross P.
      Cell proliferation in normal epidermis.
      ).
      In healthy skin, complete epidermal renewal takes approximately 30 days. Accelerated KC turnover or hyperproliferation is required during skin injury. However, under certain circumstances, this tightly regulated process is disturbed, and basal KCs remain hyperproliferative. Besides being related to malignancies (
      • Frost P.
      • Weinstein G.D.
      • Van Scott E.J.
      The ichthyosiform dermatoses. II. Autoradiographic studies of epidermal proliferation.
      ;
      • Wright N.A.
      Changes in epidermal cell proliferation in proliferative skin disease.
      ), KC hyperproliferation is a classic feature of several benign skin disorders, including the chronic inflammatory skin diseases psoriasis (
      • Leigh I.M.
      • Pulford K.A.
      • Ramaekers F.C.
      • Lane E.B.
      Psoriasis: maintenance of an intact monolayer basal cell differentiation compartment in spite of hyperproliferation.
      ;
      • Vanscott E.J.
      • Ekel T.M.
      Kinetics of hyperplasia in psoriasis.
      ;
      • Weinstein G.D.
      • McCullough J.L.
      • Ross P.A.
      Cell kinetic basis for pathophysiology of psoriasis.
      ) and atopic dermatitis (AD) (
      • Sapuntsova S.G.
      • Mel'nikova N.P.
      • Deigin V.I.
      • Kozulin E.A.
      • Timoshin S.S.
      Proliferative processes in the epidermis of patients with atopic dermatitis treated with thymodepressin.
      ). Although the underlying pathogenesis and pathophysiological processes are distinct, both diseases are typically characterized by epidermal thickening (acanthosis) owing to hyperplasia (increased cell numbers). The resulting excessive skin scaling is due to both disturbed regulation of epidermal proliferation and the terminal differentiation and desquamation process. These disturbances are generally considered to be caused by the cutaneous milieu of potentially mitogenic factors secreted by the inflammatory tissue microenvironment (
      • Guttman-Yassky E.
      • Krueger J.G.
      Atopic dermatitis and psoriasis: two different immune diseases or one spectrum?.
      ).
      From the early 80s onward, in vitro studies have addressed KC proliferation aiming to identify mitogenic stimuli such as GFs and cytokines that could be relevant for inflammatory diseases or epidermal repair processes. The results of these studies are conflicting and difficult to interpret because of the various culture systems (monolayers vs. organotypic models, foreskin vs. adult KCs) and different readout parameters (3H-thymidine incorporation, surrogate markers such as keratin 16). This lack of a systematic approach hampered the identification of bona fide KC mitogens. Many of these studies were furthermore not specifically designed to investigate KC (hyper)proliferation but focused on the involvement of the investigated molecules in AD or psoriasis. Clearly, identification of relevant, disease-specific mitogens is ever needed to understand the pathophysiology and to facilitate target drug discovery and development.
      We therefore conducted a literature search and screened the identified candidate molecules for their potential as acting KC mitogens using a standardized organotypic epidermal culture system, a concentration series of candidate molecules, and primary epidermal KCs from multiple donors. This comprehensive study uncovered mitogens and calls on the validity of previously reported mitogens. In addition, we provide evidence for the relevance of the signaling pathways associated with the identified mitogens for the induction of KC hyperproliferation.

      Results

      Selection of candidate molecules involved in KC proliferation

      We performed a comprehensive literature search, summarized in Table 1, for selecting candidate mitogens associated with KC hyperproliferation particularly related to psoriasis and AD or wound healing. Studies were screened for information on the effects of soluble factors on KC (hyper)proliferation and epidermal alterations, resulting in a total of 34 potential candidate mitogens that we selected for further functional analysis. This list includes the classical disease-associated cytokines (derived from T helper [Th] 1, Th2, Th17 Th22 cells) but also GFs and serum-derived molecules.
      Table 1Candidate Mitogens Associated with Keratinocyte Proliferation in Psoriasis and Atopic Dermatitis
      Candidate MitogenSpeciesModelLink Toward MitogenicityRef.
      CCL17HumanIn vivoAtopic dermatitis(
      • Hijnen D.
      • De Bruin-Weller M.
      • Oosting B.
      • Lebre C.
      • De Jong E.
      • Bruijnzeel-Koomen C.
      • et al.
      Serum thymus and activation-regulated chemokine (TARC) and cutaneous T cell- attracting chemokine (CTACK) levels in allergic diseases: TARC and CTACK are disease-specific markers for atopic dermatitis.
      )
      Human

      Mouse
      2D,

      In vivo
      Association with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Nakahigashi K.
      • Kabashima K.
      • Ikoma A.
      • Verkman A.S.
      • Miyachi Y.
      • Hara-Chikuma M.
      Upregulation of aquaporin-3 is involved in keratinocyte proliferation and epidermal hyperplasia.
      )
      HumanIn vivoAtopic dermatitis(
      • Fujisawa T.
      • Fujisawa R.
      • Kato Y.
      • Nakayama T.
      • Morita A.
      • Katsumata H.
      • et al.
      Presence of high contents of thymus and activation-regulated chemokine in platelets and elevated plasma levels of thymus and activation-regulated chemokine and macrophage-derived chemokine in patients with atopic dermatitis.
      )
      CGRPHumanIn vivoPsoriasis(
      • Jiang W.Y.
      • Raychaudhuri S.P.
      • Farber E.M.
      Double-labeled immunofluorescence study of cutaneous nerves in psoriasis.
      )
      Human2DAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Yu X.J.
      • Li C.Y.
      • Xu Y.H.
      • Chen L.M.
      • Zhou C.L.
      Calcitonin gene-related peptide increases proliferation of human HaCaT keratinocytes by activation of MAP kinases.
      )
      MouseIn vivoAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Seike M.
      • Ikeda M.
      • Morimoto A.
      • Matsumoto M.
      • Kodama H.
      Increased synthesis of calcitonin gene-related peptide stimulates keratinocyte proliferation in murine UVB-irradiated skin.
      )
      CRNNHuman Mouse2D,

      In vivo
      Psoriasis(
      • Li C.
      • Xiao L.
      • Jia J.
      • Li F.
      • Wang X.
      • Duan Q.
      • et al.
      Cornulin is induced in psoriasis lesions and promotes keratinocyte proliferation via phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt pathways.
      )
      EGFHumanEx vivoAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation and migration(
      • Bhora F.Y.
      • Dunkin B.J.
      • Batzri S.
      • Aly H.M.
      • Bass B.L.
      • Sidawy A.N.
      • et al.
      Effect of growth factors on cell proliferation and epithelialization in human skin.
      )
      Human3D (HSE)Association with keratinocyte proliferation and migration(
      • Gibbs S.
      • Silva Pinto A.N.
      • Murli S.
      • Huber M.
      • Hohl D.
      • Ponec M.
      Epidermal growth factor and keratinocyte growth factor differentially regulate epidermal migration, growth, and differentiation.
      )
      Et-1Human2DAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Venuti A.
      • Marcante M.L.
      • Flamini S.
      • Di Castro V.
      • Bagnato A.
      The autonomous growth of human papillomavirus type 16-immortalized keratinocytes is related to the endothelin-1 autocrine loop.
      )
      FCSHuman2DEnhances keratinocyte migration(
      • Henry G.
      • Li W.
      • Garner W.
      • Woodley D.T.
      Migration of human keratinocytes in plasma and serum and wound re-epithelialisation [published correction appears in Lancet 2003;361:1660].
      )
      Mouse2DSerum contains components enhancing and inhibiting keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Bertolero F.
      • Kaighn M.E.
      • Camalier R.F.
      • Saffiotti U.
      Effects of serum and serum-derived factors on growth and differentiation of mouse keratinocytes.
      )
      GM-CSFHumanIn vivoAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Braunstein S.
      • Kaplan G.
      • Gottlieb A.B.
      • Schwartz M.
      • Walsh G.
      • Abalos R.M.
      • et al.
      GM-CSF activates regenerative epidermal growth and stimulates keratinocyte proliferation in human skin in vivo.
      )
      Human2D,

      In vivo
      Atopic dermatitis(
      • Pastore S.
      • Fanales-Belasio E.
      • Albanesi C.
      • Chinni L.M.
      • Giannetti A.
      • Girolomoni G.
      Granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor is overproduced by keratinocytes in atopic dermatitis. Implications for sustained dendritic cell activation in the skin.
      )
      MouseIn vivoAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Mann A.
      • Breuhahn K.
      • Schirmacher P.
      • Blessing M.
      Keratinocyte-derived granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor accelerates wound healing: stimulation of keratinocyte proliferation, granulation tissue formation, and vascularization.
      )
      IFN-γHumanIn vivoPsoriasis(
      • Uyemura K.
      • Yamamura M.
      • Fivenson D.F.
      • Modlin R.L.
      • Nickoloff B.J.
      The cytokine network in lesional and lesion-free psoriatic skin is characterized by a T-helper type 1 cell-mediated response.
      )
      Human2D,

      Ex vivo
      Decreases keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Hattori N.
      • Komine M.
      • Yano S.
      • Kaneko T.
      • Hanakawa Y.
      • Hashimoto K.
      • et al.
      Interferon-gamma, a strong suppressor of cell proliferation, induces upregulation of keratin K6, one of the inflammatory- and proliferation-associated keratins.
      )
      IGF-1Human2D,

      In vivo
      Elevated IGF-1R expression associated with enhanced keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Krane J.F.
      • Murphy D.P.
      • Carter D.M.
      • Krueger J.G.
      Synergistic effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF) and insulin-like growth factor I/somatomedin C (IGF-I) on keratinocyte proliferation may be mediated by IGF-I transmodulation of the EGF receptor.
      )
      Human2D,

      In vivo
      IGF-1R expression in proliferative keratinocytes(
      • Tavakkol A.
      • Elder J.T.
      • Griffiths C.E.
      • Cooper K.D.
      • Talwar H.
      • Fisher G.J.
      • et al.
      Expression of growth hormone receptor, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and IGF-1 receptor mRNA and proteins in human skin.
      )
      Human

      Mouse
      2D,

      In vivo
      IGF-1R inhibition reverses keratinocyte hyperproliferation(
      • Wraight C.J.
      • White P.J.
      • McKean S.C.
      • Fogarty R.D.
      • Venables D.J.
      • Liepe I.J.
      • et al.
      Reversal of epidermal hyperproliferation in psoriasis by insulin-like growth factor I receptor antisense oligonucleotides.
      )
      IL-1αMouse2D,

      In vivo
      Association with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Hobbs R.M.
      • Silva-Vargas V.
      • Groves R.
      • Watt F.M.
      Expression of activated MEK1 in differentiating epidermal cells is sufficient to generate hyperproliferative and inflammatory skin lesions.
      )
      Human3D (HSE)Association with keratinocyte proliferation in co-culture with fibroblasts(
      • Maas-Szabowski N.
      • Stark H.J.
      • Fusenig N.E.
      Keratinocyte growth regulation in defined organotypic cultures through IL-1-induced keratinocyte growth factor expression in resting fibroblasts.
      )
      Human3D (HSE)Association with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Taniguchi K.
      • Arima K.
      • Masuoka M.
      • Ohta S.
      • Shiraishi H.
      • Ontsuka K.
      • et al.
      Periostin controls keratinocyte proliferation and differentiation by interacting with the paracrine IL-1α/IL-6 loop.
      )
      IL-1βHuman MouseIn vivoPsoriasis(
      • Cai Y.
      • Xue F.
      • Quan C.
      • Qu M.
      • Liu N.
      • Zhang Y.
      • et al.
      A critical role of the IL-1β-IL-1R signaling pathway in skin inflammation and psoriasis pathogenesis.
      )
      IL-4HumanIn vivoAtopic dermatitis(
      • Hamid Q.
      • Boguniewicz M.
      • Leung D.Y.
      Differential in situ cytokine gene expression in acute versus chronic atopic dermatitis.
      )
      Human2DAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Yang Y.
      • Yoo H.M.
      • Choi I.
      • Pyun K.H.
      • Byun S.M.
      • Ha H.
      Interleukin 4-induced proliferation in normal human keratinocytes is associated with c-myc gene expression and inhibited by genistein.
      )
      IL-5HumanIn vivoAtopic dermatitis(
      • Kondo S.
      • Yazawa H.
      • Jimbow K.
      Reduction of serum interleukin-5 levels reflect clinical improvement in patients with atopic dermatitis.
      )
      IL-6Human2D,

      In vivo
      Psoriasis(
      • Grossman R.M.
      • Krueger J.
      • Yourish D.
      • Granelli-Piperno A.
      • Murphy D.P.
      • May L.T.
      • et al.
      Interleukin 6 is expressed in high levels in psoriatic skin and stimulates proliferation of cultured human keratinocytes.
      )
      RatIn vivoAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Sawamura D.
      • Meng X.
      • Ina S.
      • Sato M.
      • Tamai K.
      • Hanada K.
      • et al.
      Induction of keratinocyte proliferation and lymphocytic infiltration by in vivo introduction of the IL-6 gene into keratinocytes and possibility of keratinocyte gene therapy for inflammatory skin diseases using IL-6 mutant genes.
      )
      IL-8HumanIn vivoPsoriasis(
      • Steude J.
      • Kulke R.
      • Christophers E.
      Interleukin-1-stimulated secretion of interleukin-8 and growth-related oncogene-alpha demonstrates greatly enhanced keratinocyte growth in human raft cultured epidermis.
      )
      Human3D (HSE)Association with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Steude J.
      • Kulke R.
      • Christophers E.
      Interleukin-1-stimulated secretion of interleukin-8 and growth-related oncogene-alpha demonstrates greatly enhanced keratinocyte growth in human raft cultured epidermis.
      )
      IL-12HumanIn vivoAtopic dermatitis(
      • Hamid Q.
      • Naseer T.
      • Minshall E.M.
      • Song Y.L.
      • Boguniewicz M.
      • Leung D.Y.
      In vivo expression of IL-12 and IL-13 in atopic dermatitis.
      )
      HumanIn vivoPsoriasis(
      • Yawalkar N.
      • Karlen S.
      • Hunger R.
      • Brand C.U.
      • Braathen L.R.
      Expression of interleukin-12 is increased in psoriatic skin.
      )
      IL-13MouseIn vivoAtopic dermatitis(
      • Herrick C.A.
      • Xu L.
      • McKenzie A.N.
      • Tigelaar R.E.
      • Bottomly K.
      IL-13 is necessary, not simply sufficient, for epicutaneously induced Th2 responses to soluble protein antigen.
      )
      Human2DAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Matsumura S.
      • Terao M.
      • Murota H.
      • Katayama I.
      Th2 cytokines enhance TrkA expression, upregulate proliferation, and downregulate differentiation of keratinocytes.
      )
      IL-15HumanIn vivoPsoriasis(
      • Rückert R.
      • Asadullah K.
      • Seifert M.
      • Budagian V.M.
      • Arnold R.
      • Trombotto C.
      • et al.
      Inhibition of keratinocyte apoptosis by IL-15: a new parameter in the pathogenesis of psoriasis?.
      )
      Human2DEnhances keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Yano S.
      • Komine M.
      • Fujimoto M.
      • Okochi H.
      • Tamaki K.
      Interleukin 15 induces the signals of epidermal proliferation through ERK and PI 3-kinase in a human epidermal keratinocyte cell line, HaCaT.
      )
      Human2D,

      In vivo
      Association with keratinocyte proliferation and migration(
      • Jones A.M.
      • Griffiths J.L.
      • Sanders A.J.
      • Owen S.
      • Ruge F.
      • Harding K.G.
      • et al.
      The clinical significance and impact of interleukin 15 on keratinocyte cell growth and migration.
      )
      IL-17AHuman

      Mouse
      2D,

      In vivo
      Psoriasis(
      • Charruyer A.
      • Fong S.
      • Vitcov G.G.
      • Sklar S.
      • Tabernik L.
      • Taneja M.
      • et al.
      Brief report: interleukin-17A-dependent asymmetric stem cell divisions are increased in human psoriasis: a mechanism underlying benign hyperproliferation.
      )
      Mouse2D,

      In vivo
      Association with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Wu L.
      • Chen X.
      • Zhao J.
      • Martin B.
      • Zepp J.A.
      • Ko J.S.
      • et al.
      A novel IL-17 signaling pathway controlling keratinocyte proliferation and tumorigenesis via the TRAF4-ERK5 axis.
      )
      Human2D,

      In vivo
      Association with keratinocyte proliferation,

      Psoriasis
      (
      • Ma W.Y.
      • Jia K.
      • Zhang Y.
      IL-17 promotes keratinocyte proliferation via the downregulation of C/EBPα.
      )
      IL-19Human Mouse2D,

      In vivo
      Psoriasis(
      • Witte E.
      • Kokolakis G.
      • Witte K.
      • Philipp S.
      • Doecke W.D.
      • Babel N.
      • et al.
      IL-19 is a component of the pathogenetic IL-23/IL-17 cascade in psoriasis.
      )
      Human Mouse2D,

      In vivo
      Wound healing(
      • Sun D.P.
      • Yeh C.H.
      • So E.
      • Wang L.Y.
      • Wei T.S.
      • Chang M.S.
      • et al.
      Interleukin (IL)-19 promoted skin wound healing by increasing fibroblast keratinocyte growth factor expression.
      )
      HumanIn vivoAtopic dermatitis,

      Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
      (
      • Oka T.
      • Sugaya M.
      • Takahashi N.
      • Nakajima R.
      • Otobe S.
      • Kabasawa M.
      • et al.
      Increased interleukin-19 expression in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and atopic dermatitis.
      )
      Human Mouse2D,

      In vivo
      Atopic dermatitis(
      • Bao L.
      • Alexander J.B.
      • Shi V.Y.
      • Mohan G.C.
      • Chan L.S.
      Interleukin-4 up-regulation of epidermal interleukin-19 expression in keratinocytes involves the binding of signal transducer and activator of transcription 6 (Stat6) to the imperfect Stat6 sites.
      )
      HumanIn vivoPsoriasis(
      • Li H.H.
      • Lin Y.C.
      • Chen P.J.
      • Hsiao C.H.
      • Lee J.Y.
      • Chen W.C.
      • et al.
      Interleukin-19 upregulates keratinocyte growth factor and is associated with psoriasis.
      )
      IL-20HumanIn vivoPsoriasis(
      • Wei C.C.
      • Chen W.Y.
      • Wang Y.C.
      • Chen P.J.
      • Lee J.Y.
      • Wong T.W.
      • et al.
      Detection of IL-20 and its receptors on psoriatic skin.
      )
      IL-21Human, MouseIn vivoPsoriasis(
      • Caruso R.
      • Botti E.
      • Sarra M.
      • Esposito M.
      • Stolfi C.
      • Diluvio L.
      • et al.
      Involvement of interleukin-21 in the epidermal hyperplasia of psoriasis.
      )
      HumanIn vivoAtopic dermatitis(
      • Mizutani H.
      • Tamagawa-Mineoka R.
      • Nakamura N.
      • Masuda K.
      • Katoh N.
      Serum IL-21 levels are elevated in atopic dermatitis patients with acute skin lesions.
      )
      IL-22Human2D,

      3D (HEE)
      Enhances epidermal hypertrophy and keratinocyte migration(
      • Boniface K.
      • Bernard F.X.
      • Garcia M.
      • Gurney A.L.
      • Lecron J.C.
      • Morel F.
      IL-22 inhibits epidermal differentiation and induces proinflammatory gene expression and migration of human keratinocytes.
      )
      Human2DAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Ekman A.K.
      • Bivik Eding C.
      • Rundquist I.
      • Enerbäck C.
      IL-17 and IL-22 promote keratinocyte stemness in the germinative compartment in psoriasis.
      )
      MouseIn vivoPsoriasis(
      • Zheng Y.
      • Danilenko D.M.
      • Valdez P.
      • Kasman I.
      • Eastham-Anderson J.
      • Wu J.
      • et al.
      Interleukin-22, a T(H)17 cytokine, mediates IL-23-induced dermal inflammation and acanthosis.
      )
      IL-23Human

      Mouse
      2D,

      In vivo
      Induces epidermal hyperplasia(
      • Chan J.R.
      • Blumenschein W.
      • Murphy E.
      • Diveu C.
      • Wiekowski M.
      • Abbondanzo S.
      • et al.
      IL-23 stimulates epidermal hyperplasia via TNF and IL-20R2-dependent mechanisms with implications for psoriasis pathogenesis.
      )
      Human

      Mouse
      2D,

      In vivo
      Psoriasis(
      • Works M.G.
      • Yin F.
      • Yin C.C.
      • Yiu Y.
      • Shew K.
      • Tran T.T.
      • et al.
      Inhibition of TYK2 and JAK1 ameliorates imiquimod-induced psoriasis-like dermatitis by inhibiting IL-22 and the IL-23/IL-17 axis.
      )
      HumanIn vivoPsoriasis(
      • Nair R.P.
      • Duffin K.C.
      • Helms C.
      • Ding J.
      • Stuart P.E.
      • Goldgar D.
      • et al.
      Genome-wide scan reveals association of psoriasis with IL-23 and NF-kappaB pathways.
      )
      IL-25Human

      Mouse
      2D,

      In vivo
      Psoriasis(
      • Xu M.
      • Lu H.
      • Lee Y.H.
      • Wu Y.
      • Liu K.
      • Shi Y.
      • et al.
      An interleukin-25-mediated autoregulatory circuit in keratinocytes plays a pivotal role in psoriatic skin inflammation.
      )
      IL-27Human2D,

      In vivo
      Psoriasis(
      • Shibata S.
      • Tada Y.
      • Kanda N.
      • Nashiro K.
      • Kamata M.
      • Karakawa M.
      • et al.
      Possible roles of IL-27 in the pathogenesis of psoriasis.
      )
      Human

      Human

      Mouse
      2D

      Ex vivo

      In vivo
      Wound healing(
      • Yang B.
      • Suwanpradid J.
      • Sanchez-Lagunes R.
      • Choi H.W.
      • Hoang P.
      • Wang D.
      • et al.
      IL-27 facilitates skin wound healing through induction of epidermal proliferation and host defense.
      )
      IL-31MouseIn vivoAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation and epidermal acanthosis(
      • Singh B.
      • Jegga A.G.
      • Shanmukhappa K.S.
      • Edukulla R.
      • Khurana Hershey G.H.
      • Medvedovic M.
      • et al.
      IL-31-driven skin remodeling involves epidermal cell proliferation and thickening that lead to impaired skin-barrier function [published correction appears in PLoS One 2017;12:e0170446].
      )
      MouseIn vivoAtopic dermatitis(
      • Dillon S.R.
      • Sprecher C.
      • Hammond A.
      • Bilsborough J.
      • Rosenfeld-Franklin M.
      • Presnell S.R.
      • et al.
      Interleukin 31, a cytokine produced by activated T cells, induces dermatitis in mice [published correction appears in Nat Immunol 2005;6:114].
      )
      Human2D,

      In vivo
      Psoriasis(
      • Finch P.W.
      • Murphy F.
      • Cardinale I.
      • Krueger J.G.
      Altered expression of keratinocyte growth factor and its receptor in psoriasis.
      )
      Human3D (HSE)Association with keratinocyte proliferation in coculture with fibroblasts(
      • Maas-Szabowski N.
      • Stark H.J.
      • Fusenig N.E.
      Keratinocyte growth regulation in defined organotypic cultures through IL-1-induced keratinocyte growth factor expression in resting fibroblasts.
      )
      KGFHuman3D (HSE)Association with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Andreadis T.G.
      • Anderson J.F.
      • Munstermann L.E.
      • Wolfe R.J.
      • Florin D.A.
      Discovery, distribution, and abundance of the newly introduced mosquito Ochlerotatus japonicus (Diptera: Culicidae) in Connecticut, USA.
      )
      Human2D,

      In vivo
      Psoriasis(
      • Finch P.W.
      • Murphy F.
      • Cardinale I.
      • Krueger J.G.
      Altered expression of keratinocyte growth factor and its receptor in psoriasis.
      )
      Human2DAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Marchese C.
      • Rubin J.
      • Ron D.
      • Faggioni A.
      • Torrisi M.R.
      • Messina A.
      • et al.
      Human keratinocyte growth factor activity on proliferation and differentiation of human keratinocytes: differentiation response distinguishes KGF from EGF family.
      )
      LeptinHuman

      Mouse
      2D

      In vivo
      Association with keratinocyte proliferation and involvement in wound healing(
      • Stallmeyer B.
      • Kämpfer H.
      • Podda M.
      • Kaufmann R.
      • Pfeilschifter J.
      • Frank S.
      A novel keratinocyte mitogen: regulation of leptin and its functional receptor in skin repair.
      )
      OSMHuman2D,

      3D (HEE),

      In vivo
      Atopic dermatitis,

      Psoriasis
      (
      • Boniface K.
      • Diveu C.
      • Morel F.
      • Pedretti N.
      • Froger J.
      • Ravon E.
      • et al.
      Oncostatin M secreted by skin infiltrating T lymphocytes is a potent keratinocyte activator involved in skin inflammation.
      )
      Human2DAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Wang H.
      • Lei L.
      • Hu J.
      • Li Y.
      Oncostatin M upregulates livin to promote keratinocyte proliferation and survival via ERK and STAT3 signaling pathways.
      )
      PGE2MouseIn vivoReceptor expression associated with enhanced keratinocyte proliferation and tumor formation(
      • Chun K.S.
      • Lao H.C.
      • Langenbach R.
      The prostaglandin E2 receptor, EP2, stimulates keratinocyte proliferation in mouse skin by G protein-dependent and {beta}-arrestin1-dependent signaling pathways.
      )
      TNF-αHuman2DDecreases keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Detmar M.
      • Orfanos C.E.
      Tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibits cell proliferation and induces class II antigens and cell adhesion molecules in cultured normal human keratinocytes in vitro.
      )
      Human2D,

      In vivo
      Psoriasis(
      • Johansen C.
      • Funding A.T.
      • Otkjaer K.
      • Kragballe K.
      • Jensen U.B.
      • Madsen M.
      • et al.
      Protein expression of TNF-alpha in psoriatic skin is regulated at a posttranscriptional level by MAPK-activated protein kinase 2.
      )
      TSLPHuman2D,

      In vivo
      Atopic dermatitis(
      • Soumelis V.
      • Reche P.A.
      • Kanzler H.
      • Yuan W.
      • Edward G.
      • Homey B.
      • et al.
      Human epithelial cells trigger dendritic cell mediated allergic inflammation by producing TSLP.
      )
      VIPHumanIn vivoAtopic dermatitis, psoriasis(
      • Anand P.
      • Springall D.R.
      • Blank M.A.
      • Sellu D.
      • Polak J.M.
      • Bloom S.R.
      Neuropeptides in skin disease: increased VIP in eczema and psoriasis but not axillary hyperhidrosis.
      )
      Human2DReceptor expression associated with enhanced keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Kakurai M.
      • Fujita N.
      • Murata S.
      • Furukawa Y.
      • Demitsu T.
      • Nakagawa H.
      Vasoactive intestinal peptide regulates its receptor expression and functions of human keratinocytes via type I vasoactive intestinal peptide receptors.
      )
      Human2DAssociation with keratinocyte proliferation(
      • Sung K.J.
      • Chang S.E.
      • Paik E.M.
      • Lee M.W.
      • Choi J.H.
      Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide stimulates the proliferation of HaCaT cell via TGF-alpha.
      )
      Abbreviations: 2D, two-dimensional; 3D, three-dimensional; CRNN, cornulin; FCS, fetal calf serum; HEE, human epidermal equivalent; HSE, human skin equivalent; KGF, keratinocyte GF; OSM, oncostatin; Ref, reference; TSLP, thymic stromal lymphopoietin.

      Analysis of KC proliferation in organotypic human epidermis

      For evaluating the direct mitogenic potential of relevant factors as listed in Table 1, we employed the widely used and highly standardized organotypic human epidermal equivalent (HEE) model (
      • Niehues H.
      • Bouwstra J.A.
      • El Ghalbzouri A.
      • Brandner J.M.
      • Zeeuwen P.L.J.M.
      • van den Bogaard E.H.
      3D skin models for 3R research: the potential of 3D reconstructed skin models to study skin barrier function.
      ), generated from primary adult human KCs in the absence of a dermal substrate to omit any confounding interactions with other cell types. First, we validated that the formation of HEEs using this methodology is based on the proliferation of KCs in the basal layer that generate a complete epidermis over time and not by the stacking of an excess of KCs as known for other models (
      • Mildner M.
      • Ballaun C.
      • Stichenwirth M.
      • Bauer R.
      • Gmeiner R.
      • Buchberger M.
      • et al.
      Gene silencing in a human organotypic skin model.
      ;
      • Sen G.L.
      • Reuter J.A.
      • Webster D.E.
      • Zhu L.
      • Khavari P.A.
      DNMT1 maintains progenitor function in self-renewing somatic tissue.
      ;
      • Truong A.B.
      • Kretz M.
      • Ridky T.W.
      • Kimmel R.
      • Khavari P.A.
      p63 regulates proliferation and differentiation of developmentally mature keratinocytes.
      ). Directly after a 24-hour exposure of the HEEs to the thymidine analog 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine (EdU) on day 5 of the air‒liquid interface culture, solely basal KCs appeared EdU positive. After a wash-out period of 2 days, EdU-positive cells were found in basal cells, indicative of label-retaining transit-amplifying cells, but also in differentiated KCs of the spinous layer, which correspond to the daughter cells that entered the terminal differentiation program (Figure 1a). This process of KC proliferation and subsequent differentiation in our HEE model system resembles epidermal renewal and KC maturation in vivo.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 1Keratinocyte proliferation in vitro. (a) EdU was incorporated in proliferating keratinocytes for 24 hours from day 5 to day 6 of air‒liquid interface culture. HEEs were harvested on day 6 (directly after EdU incorporation or on day 8 [2 days after EdU incorporation]) (n = 2). (b) Ki-67 staining of HEEs on days 5 and 8 (n = 8). (c) HEEs harvested on days 12, 16, and 20 of the air‒liquid interface stained with H&E and Ki-67 to evaluate the epidermal thickness and proliferation (n = 1). Bar = 100 μm. EdU, 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine; HEE, human epidermal equivalent.

      KC proliferation in organotypic models versus in native human skin

      Before detection of hyperproliferative changes on stimulation with the molecules of interest, we first sought to show the proliferative capacity of the HEE model and compare this with that of in vivo native skin. In general, the proliferation rate of KCs in HEEs was, on the basis of the surrogate proliferation marker Ki-67, higher than that in the native skin (Figure 1b). This elevated proliferation rate is commonly seen in organotypic skin and is in this study related to the 8-day period of the air‒liquid interface before harvesting. On prolonged air‒liquid interface culture periods (up to 20 days), proliferation rates go down, resulting in a thinning of the living epidermis until ultimately all transit-amplifying cells exit the cell cycle marking the end of the organotypic life span (Figure 1c).
      To put the mitogenic potential of the tested molecules into perspective regarding hyperproliferation in AD or psoriasis pathophysiology, we compared the epidermal features of normal skin with those of both hyperproliferative skin conditions. The histology of skin biopsies showed the classical morphological hallmarks of AD (e.g., acanthosis, spongiosis) and psoriasis (e.g., acanthosis, rete ridges, parakeratosis) (Figure 2). In normal skin, only a small portion of basal KCs is Ki-67+. In contrast, the acanthotic epidermis of AD and psoriasis skin shows most of all basal KCs as Ki-67+, whereas also in suprabasal cell layers, Ki-67+ cells are found. Semiautomated software‒guided quantification analysis estimates a 5.5-fold higher number of Ki-67+ cells in AD and over a nine-fold higher number of Ki-67+ cells in psoriasis in vivo.
      Figure thumbnail gr2
      Figure 2Keratinocyte proliferation in vivo. H&E and Ki-67 staining of normal skin and AD and psoriasis lesional skin. Beyond increased proliferation, AD and psoriasis show typical features such as acanthosis (both indicated by black lines), spongiosis (AD: indicated by closed arrow), and parakeratosis (psoriasis: indicated by open arrow). Boxes show an enlarged section of Ki-67‒positive cells in the basal layer. Bar = 100 μm. The graph shows the quantification of Ki-67 (P = 0.005) staining of normal skin (n = 4), AD (n = 2), and psoriasis (n = 3) as the number of Ki-67‒positive cells/mm stratum granulosum to correct for basal layer elongation in AD and psoriasis. ∗P < 0.05. Data are presented as mean ± SEM. AD, atopic dermatitis.

      Soluble factors affecting proliferation and epidermal morphology in organotypic epidermis

      After the validation procedures, mitogenic molecules were individually tested in the HEE cultures. For this first screening, every molecule was tested in a dose series, depicted in Table 2, using HEEs from two different KC donors. General epidermal morphology was assessed, and HEEs were screened for AD and psoriasis phenotypic features. KC proliferation was assessed by Ki-67 protein expression analysis. Results, as summarized in Table 3, indicate that most of the investigated candidates did not alter epidermal morphology nor changed KC proliferation rates. Two candidates (fetal calf serum, TNF-α) detrimentally affected epidermal morphology at higher concentrations. IFN-γ induced hypoplasia and lowered proliferation rates, whereas IL-6, IL-20, IL-22, and oncostatin M induced acanthosis but without any signs of hyperproliferative KCs, illustrating their hypertrophic (cell enlargement) effects on KCs. Epidermal spongiosis (intercellular edema), a typical AD hallmark, was detected for IL-1α and IL-1β. Of the 34 putative mitogens, we found the following four effector molecules to induce hyperproliferation accompanied by acanthosis in our HEE model: KC GF (KGF), IL-4, IL-13, and IL-17A (Table 3 and Figure 3a).
      Table 2Effector Molecules and Pathway Inhibitors Tested in HEE Model
      Effector/InhibitorManufacturer (Catalog Number)Concentrations Tested
      CCL17/TARCPeproTech

      Recombinant human TARC (CCL17), 300-30
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      CGRPSigma-Aldrich

      Calcitonin gene-related peptide, C0167
      1, 10, and 100 ng/ml
      CRNNProSpec

      Recombinant human cornulin, Pro-797
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      EGFSigma-Aldrich

      EGF from murine submaxillary gland E4127
      0.5, 1, and 5 ng/ml
      Et-1Sigma-Aldrich

      Porcine human endothelin 1, E7764
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      FBSHyclone Celbio

      FBS, SH30071.03
      5, 10, and 20%
      GM-CSFPeproTech

      Recombinant human granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating Factor, 300-03A
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IFN-γHycult Biotech

      Recombinant Human IFN-gamma, HC2030-01
      20, 100, and 250 Units/ml
      IGF-1PeproTech

      Recombinant human insulin-like growth factor-I,100-11
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-1αStemcell Technologies

      Recombinant human IL-1α, 78076
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-1βPeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-1β, 200-01B
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-4PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-4, 200-04
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-5PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-5, 200-05
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-6PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-6, 200-06
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-8PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-8 (CXCL8), 200-08
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-12PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-12 p70, 200-12
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-13PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-13, 200-13
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-15PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-15, 200-15A
      1, 10, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-17APeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-17A, 200-17
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-19PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-19, 200-19
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-20PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-20, 200-20
      10, 30, 100 ng/ml
      IL-21PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-21, 200-21
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-22PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-22, 200-22
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-23PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-23, 200-23
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-25PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-17E, 200-24
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-27PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-27, 200-38
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      IL-31PeproTech

      Recombinant human IL-31, 200-31
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      KGFSigma Aldrich

      Recombinant human KGF, K1757
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      LeptinPeproTech

      Recombinant human Leptin, 300-27A
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      OSMPeproTech

      Recombinant human Oncostatin M, 300-10T
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      PGE2Sigma Aldrich

      Synthetic PGE2, P0409
      10, 30, and 100 μM
      TNFαPeproTech

      Recombinant human TNF-α, 300-01A
      10, 30, and 100 ng/ml
      TSLPPeproTech

      Recombinant human TSLP, 300-62
      3, 10, and 30 ng/ml
      VIPSigma Aldrich

      Porcine human vasoactive intestinal peptide, V3628
      0.01, 0.1, and 1 μM
      DupilumabDupixent, Sanofi Genzyme10 nM
      TofacitinibSigma-Aldrich

      PZ0017
      450 nM
      JakI inhibitorCalbiochem

      JAK inhibitor I, 420099
      100 nM
      MEK/ERK inhibitorSigma Aldrich

      U0126 monoethanolate, U120
      100 nM
      p38 MAP Kinase inhibitor IVSigma-Aldrich

      SML0543
      100 nM
      Abbreviations: CRNN, cornulin; FBS, fetal bovine serum; HEE, human epidermal equivalent; KGF, keratinocyte GF; MEK/ERK, MAPK/extracellular signal‒regulated kinase kinase/extracellular signal‒regulated kinase kinase; OSM, oncostatin; TSLP, thymic stromal lymphopoietin.
      Table 3Screening of all Potential Mitogenic Factors in Dosage Range in HEE Model
      EffectorMorphology (H&E)Proliferation (Ki-67)Concentrations TestedMorphological Changes
      CCL17/TARC10, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      CGRP1, 10, and 100 ng/mlND
      CRNN10, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      EGF0.5, 1, and 5 ng/mlND
      Et-110, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      FCS5, 10, and 20%Toxicity
      GM-CSF10, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      IFN-γ20, 100, and 250 Units/mlHypoplasia
      IGF-110, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      IL-1α10, 30, and 100 ng/mlSpongiosis
      IL-1β10, 30, and 100 ng/mlSpongiosis
      IL-410, 30, and 100 ng/mlHyperplasia
      IL-510, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      IL-610, 30, and 100 ng/mlHypertrophy
      IL-810, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      IL-1210, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      IL-1310, 30, and 100 ng/mlHyperplasia
      IL-151, 10, and 100 ng/mlND
      IL-17A10, 30, and 100 ng/mlHyperplasia
      IL-1910, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      IL-2010, 30, and 100 ng/mlHypertrophy
      IL-2110, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      IL-2210, 30, and 100 ng/mlHypertrophy
      IL-2310, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      IL-2510, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      IL-2710, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      IL-3110, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      KGF10, 30, and 100 ng/mlHyperplasia
      Leptin10, 30, and 100 ng/mlND
      OSM10, 30, and 100 ng/mlHypertrophy
      PGE210, 30, and 100 μMND
      TNFα10, 30, and 100 ng/mlToxicity (> 10 ng/mL)
      TSLP3, 10, and 30 ng/mlND
      VIP0.01, 0.1, and 1 μMND
      Abbreviations: CRNN, cornulin; FCS, fetal calf serum; HEE, human epidermal equivalent; KGF, keratinocyte GF; ND, not detected; OSM, oncostatin; TSLP, thymic stromal lymphopoietin.
      The photographs show the representative images of two keratinocyte donors tested. Testing of all compounds was performed in several experiments, including one or more test compounds in a dosage range indicated in the table, and all experiments included negative controls (a total of nine keratinocyte donors used). The bold and underlined concentration corresponds to the depicted photograph, and either shows the highest concentration tested without any morphological/mitogenic effect or the lowest effective concentration. Photographs show ×40 magnification.
      Figure thumbnail gr3
      Figure 3Quantification of keratinocyte proliferation on compound stimulation. (a) Ki-67 staining. Graph shows the fold difference (per mm length of the epidermis) on KGF (100 ng/ml, n = 6), IL-4 (10 ng/ml, n = 6), IL-13 (10 ng/ml, n = 3), IL-17A (50 ng/ml, n = 4), IL-22 (30 ng/ml, n = 6), OSM (30 ng/ml, n = 2), and IFN-γ (250 Units/ml, n = 8) stimulation compared with that of the control (set to 1). Data are presented as mean ± SEM. (b) Ki-67 staining of HEEs pretreated for 24 hours with inhibiting agents (100 nM U0126, 450 nM TOF, 100 nM JakI inhibitor, 100 nM p38, 10 nM DUP) and thereafter costimulated with KGF for 72 hours (n = 1). Bar = 100 μm. DUP, dupilumab; HEE, human epidermal equivalent; KGF, keratinocyte GF; OSM, oncostatin M; TOF, tofacitinib.

      KGF induces proliferation through MAPK/extracellular signal‒regulated kinase kinase/extracellular signal‒regulated kinase in HEEs

      Stimulation of HEEs with KGF induced acanthosis through hyperproliferation as witnessed by increased epidermal thickness and a higher number of Ki-67‒ and EdU-positive KCs from a dosage of 10 ng/ml and higher (Figure 4a‒c). No other apparent morphological changes were observed. The results obtained with the organotypic HEE model used in this study correspond to previous studies showing that KGF is a direct regulator of KC proliferation through MAPK/extracellular signal‒regulated kinase (ERK) kinase (MEK)/ERK signaling. Indeed, pretreatment of HEEs with a selective blocker of MEK signaling before KGF exposure significantly reduced KGF-induced KC proliferation rates (Figure 4d and e). Other blocking agents targeting non-MEK/ERK signaling cascades did not interfere with KGF-dependent hyperproliferation (Figure 3b). Even at higher concentrations (up to 1 μM) the p38 MAPK inhibitor did not inhibit KGF-induced hyperproliferation (data not shown).
      Figure thumbnail gr4
      Figure 4KGF causes keratinocyte hyperproliferation in HEE. HEEs (n = 3) were stimulated with a dosage range of KGF for 72 hours. EdU was incorporated 24 hours before harvesting on day 8 of the air‒liquid interface. (a) H&E, Ki-67, and EdU staining on KGF stimulation and (b) quantification of Ki-67‒ and EdU-positive nuclei/mm length of the HEE. (c) Epidermal thickness (P = 0.008). (d) H&E, Ki-67, and EdU staining and (e) quantification of HEEs pretreated with 100 nM MEK/ERK inhibitor (U0126) for 24 hours and then costimulated with 100 ng/ml KGF for 72 hours (Ki67, P = 0.004; EdU, P = 0.011) (n = 3). ∗P < 0.05. Data are presented as mean ± SEM. Bar = 100 μm. EdU, 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine; HEE, human epidermal equivalent; KGF, keratinocyte GF; MEK/ERK, MAPK/extracellular signal‒regulated kinase kinase/extracellular signal‒regulated kinase kinase.

      Mitogenic effects and signaling pathways of psoriasis- and AD-associated cytokines

      In addition to KGF, we found specific ILs classically known to be elevated in psoriasis and/or AD skin to induce KC proliferation in the organotypic HEEs. IL-17A resulted in a higher number of Ki-67+ cells in the basal layer and the presence of Ki-67+ cells in suprabasal layers of the stratum spinosum (Table 3). Results of the initial screening were verified in a dosage range study with two KC donors, and quantification indicated that IL-17A leads to a doubling of total proliferative KC at a concentration of 1 ng/ml and higher (Figure 5).
      Figure thumbnail gr5
      Figure 5IL-17A accelerates keratinocyte proliferation in vitro. (a) H&E, Ki-67, and EdU (24-hour incorporation) staining of HEEs stimulated with a dosage range of IL-17A for 72 hours and (b) quantification presented as the number of Ki-67‒ and EdU-positive nuclei/mm length of the epidermal equivalent (n = 2). Data are presented as mean ± SEM. Bar = 100 μm. EdU, 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine; HEE, human epidermal equivalent; SEC, secukinumab; TOF, tofacitinib.
      To reverse the IL-17A‒induced proliferation and investigate the downstream signaling pathways, HEEs were pretreated with secukinumab (anti‒IL-17A antibody) and diverse inhibiting agents before IL-17A stimulation. Secukinumab and blocking of the MEK/ERK signaling route reduced the number of proliferating KCs, whereas the inhibitors of Jak (tofacitinib) and MAPK signaling (p38) were unable to dampen the IL-17‒induced hyperproliferation (Figure 6a and b). To further dissect the involved signaling events, the phosphorylation (and thus activation) of signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 3 by IL-17A was analyzed. Only, secukinumab and tofacitinib inhibited the phosphorylation of STAT3 (Figure 6c). Because tofacitinib pretreatment did not reduce the numbers of proliferative KCs, IL-17A‒mediated hyperproliferation is not likely a result of the activated Jak/STAT3 signaling pathway.
      Figure thumbnail gr6
      Figure 6Inhibition of IL-17A‒mediated hyperproliferation. (a) H&E, Ki-67, and EdU (24-hour incorporation) staining, (b) quantification (EdU, P = 0.009) and (c) western blot analysis (pSTAT3, P = 0.003) of HEEs pretreated with diverse inhibiting agents (10 nM SEC, 450 nM TOF, 100 nM p38, 100 nM U0126) before costimulation with IL-17A (50 ng/ml) for 72 hours (n = 2). The intensity of the pSTAT3 signal is corrected for β-actin expression, after which the IL-17A‒stimulated HEEs without inhibitor are set at 1 for the relative quantity. Data are presented as mean ± SEM. Bar = 100 μm. EdU, 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine; HEE, human epidermal equivalent; pSTAT3, phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3; SEC, secukinumab; TOF, tofacitinib.
      For IL-4 and IL-13 treatment, KC hyperproliferation was also observed (Table 3), and again, an extended dose range study was performed to address the potency of both cytokines. For IL-4 and IL-13, the lowest effective concentration leading to increased Ki-67+ cells was 3 ng/ml (Figure 7a and b). Similar to that of IL-17, Ki-67+ cells were also frequently detected in suprabasal layers. These Th2 cytokines increased the number of proliferating KCs by two-fold in the range of 3 to 30 ng/ml (Figure 7c and d). Next, we evaluated whether hyperproliferation also occurred in a more matured HEE culture after 12, 16, or even 20 days of air‒liquid interface culture. In this experiment, the basal proliferation rate is decreasing in time, whereas terminal differentiation and cornification, as witnessed by a thickening of the stratum corneum, are steadily increasing (Figure 8). The Th2 cytokine‒mediated hyperproliferation was observed in all conditions and thus occurred irrespective of the basal proliferation rate or differentiation status of the organotypic model.
      Figure thumbnail gr7
      Figure 7Th2 cytokines IL-4 and IL-13 induce hyperproliferation in HEE. A dosage range of IL-4 and IL-13 added during the last 72 hours of air-exposed culture shows their effect on keratinocyte proliferation. (a, b) H&E, Ki-67, and EdU (24-hour incorporation) staining and (c, d) quantification presented as Ki-67 (IL-4, P = 0.038; IL-13, P = 0.05) and EdU (IL-4, P = 0.02; IL-13, P = 0.011)-positive nuclei/mm length of the epidermal equivalent (n = 3). Data are presented as mean ± SEM. Bar = 100 μm. EdU, 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine; HEE, human epidermal equivalent; Th2, T helper 2.
      Figure thumbnail gr8
      Figure 8Prolonged HEEs cultures stimulated with IL-4. HEEs were stimulated with 10 ng/ml IL-4 from day 1 of the air‒liquid interface and harvested on days 12, 16, or 20 of culture. H&E and Ki-67 staining show morphological changes and keratinocyte proliferation during long-term epidermal differentiation (n = 1). Bar = 100 μm. HEE, human epidermal equivalent.
      To verify that the Th2 cytokine‒mediated hyperproliferation in KCs was directly related to the IL-4 receptor‒activated Jak/STAT signaling cascade (
      • Rawlings J.S.
      • Rosler K.M.
      • Harrison D.A.
      The JAK/STAT signaling pathway.
      ), cytokine stimulation was combined with pretreatment of dupilumab (monoclonal anti‒IL-4R) and tofacitinib (Jak inhibitor). Both dupilumab and tofacitinib prevented IL-4‒ and IL-13‒mediated hyperproliferation through the inhibition of STAT3/6 phosphorylation in HEEs. Tofacitinib reduced STAT3 phosphorylation even below endogenous levels, but this did not correspond to lowered numbers of proliferating KCs (Figure 9 and Figure 10a and b). Furthermore, inhibition of MEK/ERK or MAPK signaling did not reverse IL-4‒induced hyperproliferation (Figure 10c and d). From these results, we can conclude that the Th2 family cytokines IL-4 and IL-13 are direct KC mitogens and act through the activation of Jak/STAT6 signaling but not STAT3 considering the ineffectiveness of phosphorylated STAT3 inhibition on KC proliferation after IL-17 exposure.
      Figure thumbnail gr9
      Figure 9Effect of IL-4/IL-13 signaling inhibition. HEEs were pretreated with DUP (10 nM) and TOF (450 nM) 24 hours before (a) IL-4 or (b) IL-13 stimulation and then costimulated for another 72 hours. H&E, Ki-67, and EdU staining show an effect on epidermal morphology and keratinocyte proliferation. Quantification presented as Ki-67‒ (IL-13, P = 0.011) and EdU- (IL-4, P = 0.022) positive nuclei/mm length of the epidermal equivalent for (c) IL-4 and (d) IL-13 (n = 3). ∗P < 0.05. Data are presented as mean ± SEM. Bar = 100 μm. DUP, dupilumab; EdU, 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine; HEE, human epidermal equivalent; TOF, tofacitinib.
      Figure thumbnail gr10
      Figure 10Inhibition of IL-4‒/IL-13‒induced proliferation. Western blot analysis and quantification of HEEs shown in for (a) IL-4 and (b) IL-13), stained for pSTAT3 (IL-4, P = 0.015; IL-13, P = 0.002) and pSTAT6 (IL-4, P = 0.004; IL-13, P = 0.008) (corrected for β-actin expression, IL-4‒/IL-13‒stimulated HEEs set at 1) (n = 3). ∗P < 0.05. Data are presented as mean ± SEM. (c) Ki-67 staining and (d) quantification (P = 0.037) of HEEs treated with inhibiting agents (450 nM TOF, 100 nM JakI inhibitor, 100 nM p38, 100 nM U0126) 24 hours before costimulation with 10 ng/ml IL-4 for 72 hours (n = 3). Data are presented as mean ± SEM. Bar = 100 μm. DUP, dupilumab; EdU, 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine; HEE, human epidermal equivalent; inh, inhibitor; pSTAT3/6, phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription 3/6; TOF, tofacitinib.

      Discussion

      In this study, we aimed to find the direct drivers of KC hyperproliferation in psoriasis and AD. Of the 34 tested candidates, KGF, IL-4, IL-13, and IL-17A met the criteria for acting as KC mitogens and could thus serve as potential biomarkers for epidermal hyperproliferation.
      In this study, we have chosen a three-dimensional (3D) organotypic HEE model purely composed of KCs to selectively identify direct KC mitogens. The benefits of such models over conventional monolayer cultures are that the epidermal tissue structure allows for the monitoring of differential KC turnover induced by the selected factors and that it allows for the detection of morphological features related to proliferation. Furthermore, in conventional monolayer culture models, KCs already reside in an almost maximum proliferative state, which minimizes the window of opportunity for detection of increased KC proliferation (
      • Rasmussen C.
      • Thomas-Virnig C.
      • Allen-Hoffmann B.L.
      Classical human epidermal keratinocyte cell culture.
      ). One limitation of the HEE model is that the molecules tested negative in our screen could still be indirect mitogens through the activation of other cell types (e.g., immune cells) in the skin that in turn secrete mitogenic factors for KCs. In addition, mitogens that strongly act in concert with other factors are not identified in this study. Furthermore, possible autocrine regulation by molecules produced on cytokine exposure may contribute to the observed effects. Therefore, our study highlights the potency of KGF, IL-4, IL-13, and IL-17A in the pathophysiological processes of AD and psoriasis but does not rule out the involvement of other molecules tested in processes that ultimately lead to KC hyperproliferation.
      We found KGF to elevate proliferation in an epidermal (KC-only) model. Previously, KGF was also found to directly stimulate KC proliferation in monolayer cultures and in 3D full-thickness models (
      • Andreadis S.T.
      • Hamoen K.E.
      • Yarmush M.L.
      • Morgan J.R.
      Keratinocyte growth factor induces hyperproliferation and delays differentiation in a skin equivalent model system.
      ;
      • Erdag G.
      • Medalie D.A.
      • Rakhorst H.
      • Krueger G.G.
      • Morgan J.R.
      FGF-7 expression enhances the performance of bioengineered skin.
      ;
      • Finch P.W.
      • Murphy F.
      • Cardinale I.
      • Krueger J.G.
      Altered expression of keratinocyte growth factor and its receptor in psoriasis.
      ;
      • Marchese C.
      • Rubin J.
      • Ron D.
      • Faggioni A.
      • Torrisi M.R.
      • Messina A.
      • et al.
      Human keratinocyte growth factor activity on proliferation and differentiation of human keratinocytes: differentiation response distinguishes KGF from EGF family.
      ). In vivo, after paracrine secretion of KGF by fibroblasts, it binds with high affinity to the KGF receptor, which is solely expressed on epithelial cells (
      • Miki T.
      • Bottaro D.P.
      • Fleming T.P.
      • Smith C.L.
      • Burgess W.H.
      • Chan A.M.
      • et al.
      Determination of ligand-binding specificity by alternative splicing: two distinct growth factor receptors encoded by a single gene.
      ). Studies revealed the involvement of KGF during wound healing (
      • Marchese C.
      • Chedid M.
      • Dirsch O.R.
      • Csaky K.G.
      • Santanelli F.
      • Latini C.
      • et al.
      Modulation of keratinocyte growth factor and its receptor in reepithelializing human skin.
      ;
      • Staiano-Coico L.
      • Krueger J.G.
      • Rubin J.S.
      • D'Limi S.
      • Vallat V.P.
      • Valentino L.
      • et al.
      Human keratinocyte growth factor effects in a porcine model of epidermal wound healing.
      ;
      • Werner S.
      • Smola H.
      • Liao X.
      • Longaker M.T.
      • Krieg T.
      • Hofschneider P.H.
      • et al.
      The function of KGF in morphogenesis of epithelium and reepithelialization of wounds.
      ,
      • Werner S.
      • Peters K.G.
      • Longaker M.T.
      • Fuller-Pace F.
      • Banda M.J.
      • Williams L.T.
      Large induction of keratinocyte growth factor expression in the dermis during wound healing.
      ) and in psoriasis (
      • Finch P.W.
      • Murphy F.
      • Cardinale I.
      • Krueger J.G.
      Altered expression of keratinocyte growth factor and its receptor in psoriasis.
      ;
      • Kovacs D.
      • Falchi M.
      • Cardinali G.
      • Raffa S.
      • Carducci M.
      • Cota C.
      • et al.
      Immunohistochemical analysis of keratinocyte growth factor and fibroblast growth factor 10 expression in psoriasis.
      ). Furthermore, both IL-19 and IL-20, whose expression is increased in psoriatic epidermis, induce KGF transcripts in CD8+ T cells (
      • Li H.H.
      • Lin Y.C.
      • Chen P.J.
      • Hsiao C.H.
      • Lee J.Y.
      • Chen W.C.
      • et al.
      Interleukin-19 upregulates keratinocyte growth factor and is associated with psoriasis.
      ;
      • Wei C.C.
      • Chen W.Y.
      • Wang Y.C.
      • Chen P.J.
      • Lee J.Y.
      • Wong T.W.
      • et al.
      Detection of IL-20 and its receptors on psoriatic skin.
      ). KGF may thus be an important contributor to KC hyperproliferation in psoriatic epidermis.
      Psoriasis is considered a T-cell‒mediated disease, and many of these Th cells and cytokines derived thereof can nowadays be targeted by mAbs, the so-called biologicals. The most recent developments are within the Th17 immune cell axis, and the involvement of IL-17 in psoriasis pathophysiology is widely accepted. The immune cell infiltrates (e.g., Th17 cells, neutrophils) in psoriasis release IL-17, mainly IL-17A, as key effector cytokine and further promote skin inflammatory processes and epidermal alterations typical for psoriasis (
      • Brembilla N.C.
      • Senra L.
      • Boehncke W.H.
      The IL-17 family of cytokines in psoriasis: IL-17A and beyond.
      ). Specific evidence toward the role of IL-17A in epidermal hyperproliferation is yet scarce (
      • Lai Y.
      • Li D.
      • Li C.
      • Muehleisen B.
      • Radek K.A.
      • Park H.J.
      • et al.
      The antimicrobial protein REG3A regulates keratinocyte proliferation and differentiation after skin injury.
      ;
      • Langowski J.L.
      • Zhang X.
      • Wu L.
      • Mattson J.D.
      • Chen T.
      • Smith K.
      • et al.
      IL-23 promotes tumour incidence and growth.
      ;
      • Wu L.
      • Chen X.
      • Zhao J.
      • Martin B.
      • Zepp J.A.
      • Ko J.S.
      • et al.
      A novel IL-17 signaling pathway controlling keratinocyte proliferation and tumorigenesis via the TRAF4-ERK5 axis.
      ). In this study, we found IL-17A to double the rate of KC proliferation. In psoriasis, KC hyperproliferation may thus be a consequence of local IL-17A presence near the epidermis. Interestingly, recent studies also call for a pathogenic role of Th17 cells in certain AD endotypes (
      • Suárez-Fariñas M.
      • Dhingra N.
      • Gittler J.
      • Shemer A.
      • Cardinale I.
      • de Guzman Strong C.
      • et al.
      Intrinsic atopic dermatitis shows similar TH2 and higher TH17 immune activation compared with extrinsic atopic dermatitis.
      ), with IL-17 expression elevated in lesional skin (
      • Gittler J.K.
      • Shemer A.
      • Suárez-Fariñas M.
      • Fuentes-Duculan J.
      • Gulewicz K.J.
      • Wang C.Q.
      • et al.
      Progressive activation of T(H)2/T(H)22 cytokines and selective epidermal proteins characterizes acute and chronic atopic dermatitis.
      ) and subsets of CD4+ Th2 cells may produce IL-17 (
      • Wang Y.H.
      • Voo K.S.
      • Liu B.
      • Chen C.Y.
      • Uygungil B.
      • Spoede W.
      • et al.
      A novel subset of CD4(+) T(H)2 memory/effector cells that produce inflammatory IL-17 cytokine and promote the exacerbation of chronic allergic asthma.
      ). These and our data could suggest a role for IL-17 in AD-related KC hyperproliferation, although selective therapeutic targeting using secukinumab in patients with AD was ineffective (
      • Ungar B.
      • Pavel A.B.
      • Li R.
      • Kimmel G.
      • Nia J.
      • Hashim P.
      • et al.
      Phase 2 randomized, double-blind study of IL-17 targeting with secukinumab in atopic dermatitis.
      ). In contrast, targeting of the Th2 immune axis by the IL-4R‒targeting antibody, dupilumab, is considered effective in AD treatment and widely accepted in daily clinical practice (
      • Beck L.A.
      • Thaçi D.
      • Hamilton J.D.
      • Graham N.M.
      • Bieber T.
      • Rocklin R.
      • et al.
      Dupilumab treatment in adults with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis.
      ;
      • Hamilton J.D.
      • Suárez-Fariñas M.
      • Dhingra N.
      • Cardinale I.
      • Li X.
      • Kostic A.
      • et al.
      Dupilumab improves the molecular signature in skin of patients with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis.
      ).
      Two members of the Th2 cytokine family, IL-4 and IL-13, have been described not only to drive the inflammatory process that contributes to AD but also to cause reduction of expression of epidermal proteins that are important for epidermal differentiation and barrier formation (
      • Kim B.E.
      • Leung D.Y.
      • Boguniewicz M.
      • Howell M.D.
      Loricrin and involucrin expression is down-regulated by Th2 cytokines through STAT-6.
      ;
      • Omori-Miyake M.
      • Yamashita M.
      • Tsunemi Y.
      • Kawashima M.
      • Yagi J.
      In vitro assessment of IL-4- or IL-13-mediated changes in the structural components of keratinocytes in mice and humans [published correction appears in J Invest Dermatol 2018;138:472–3].
      ). Recently, it was shown that mainly IL-13 signaling pathways dominate in AD and not IL-4 (
      • Tsoi L.C.
      • Rodriguez E.
      • Degenhardt F.
      • Baurecht H.
      • Wehkamp U.
      • Volks N.
      • et al.
      Atopic dermatitis is an IL-13-dominant disease with greater molecular heterogeneity compared to psoriasis.
      ). In this study, we now show that both cytokines are direct KC mitogens in organotypic epidermal models. To our knowledge, it was previously unreported for IL-13, whereas for IL-4, increased KC proliferation in vitro has been described but only in monolayer cultures (
      • Yang Y.
      • Yoo H.M.
      • Choi I.
      • Pyun K.H.
      • Byun S.M.
      • Ha H.
      Interleukin 4-induced proliferation in normal human keratinocytes is associated with c-myc gene expression and inhibited by genistein.
      ). Our results indicate a prime role for the IL-4R‒Jak/STAT6 signaling cascade in KC hyperproliferation for both IL-4 and IL-13 because the pretreatment with dupilumab or tofacitinib reduced STAT6 phosphorylation and inverted the Th2 cytokine‒induced hyperproliferation. Normalization of epidermal turnover and thereby reduction of acanthosis and scaling may thus be considered a direct therapeutic effect of both.
      For IL-17A, previous studies investigating signaling events showed a key role for Act1 and MEK/ERK5 involvement in the proliferation of KCs after imiquimod-induced psoriasis-like inflammation in mice (
      • Ha H.L.
      • Wang H.
      • Pisitkun P.
      • Kim J.C.
      • Tassi I.
      • Tang W.
      • et al.
      IL-17 drives psoriatic inflammation via distinct, target cell-specific mechanisms.
      ). In our studies, we also aimed to put the observed in vitro hyperproliferation into perspective concerning the actual hyperproliferation that is seen in lesional skin. Similar to recently described (
      • Damen M.
      • Wirtz L.
      • Soroka E.
      • Khatif H.
      • Kukat C.
      • Simons B.D.
      • et al.
      High proliferation and delamination during skin epidermal stratification.
      ), proliferative KCs were found both in the basal and suprabasal layers of the HEE. The maximum increase in the number of proliferating cells in the organotypic model is two-fold, which is lower than we found in vivo (psoriasis: nine-fold, AD: seven-fold). One explanation could be of biological origin, namely that the complexity and costimulation of other factors in vivo further drive proliferation rates compared with only by a single exposure to IL-17A, IL-4, or IL-13. In preliminary follow-up studies, we combined cytokine stimulations, yet proliferation rates never exceeded two folds. The in vitro model system may thus be a rate-limiting factor given the time point of cytokine stimulation (between days 5 and 8 of air‒liquid interface culture): in this condition, KC turnover is higher than in native healthy skin. This may reduce the detection window, although even after exhaustive culture of 20 days when proliferation rates in the HEE are lower, we again observed a doubled number in proliferation KCs. We postulate that the flat and rigid polycarbonate membrane does not allow for the formation of rete ridges and extension of the basal layer surface such as in native skin to accommodate a larger number of proliferating cells, which hampers the fold increase in proliferating cells and limits acanthosis by proliferation in vitro.
      Notwithstanding the potential importance of molecules for which we were unable to detect any effects in our studies, in the following lines, we highlight the few molecules that did increase epidermal thickness, although proliferation rates remained normal. In several KC models, IL-22 (related to both psoriasis and AD) has been shown to increase epidermal thickness (
      • Boniface K.
      • Bernard F.X.
      • Garcia M.
      • Gurney A.L.
      • Lecron J.C.
      • Morel F.
      IL-22 inhibits epidermal differentiation and induces proinflammatory gene expression and migration of human keratinocytes.
      ;
      • Zheng Y.
      • Danilenko D.M.
      • Valdez P.
      • Kasman I.
      • Eastham-Anderson J.
      • Wu J.
      • et al.
      Interleukin-22, a T(H)17 cytokine, mediates IL-23-induced dermal inflammation and acanthosis.
      ). We also found IL-22 to induce acanthosis; however, this was not due to increased proliferation resulting in hyperplasia but rather by hypertrophy or cell swelling. Remarkably, we even find acanthosis to be more strongly correlated to cell hypertrophy than to hyperplasia because maximum epidermal thickness is found after exposure to nonmitogenic cytokines, such as IL-22 and oncostatin M. Mitogens, such as KGF or Th2 cytokines, increase epidermal thickness to a much lesser extent. Apparently, epidermal acanthosis in hyperproliferative skin diseases may not solely be caused by a higher KC turnover but also by cell enlargement. Strikingly, all hypertrophy-inducing cytokines, IL-6, IL-20, IL-22, and oncostatin M, are known activators of STAT3 signaling (
      • Nguyen P.M.
      • Putoczki T.L.
      • Ernst M.
      STAT3-activating cytokines: a therapeutic opportunity for inflammatory bowel disease?.
      ). Studies in psoriatic mice have already shown that STAT3 inhibition led to the normalization of epidermal thickness (
      • Andrés R.M.
      • Montesinos M.C.
      • Navalón P.
      • Payá M.
      • Terencio M.C.
      NF-κB and STAT3 inhibition as a therapeutic strategy in psoriasis: in vitro and in vivo effects of BTH.
      ;
      • Miyoshi K.
      • Takaishi M.
      • Nakajima K.
      • Ikeda M.
      • Kanda T.
      • Tarutani M.
      • et al.
      Stat3 as a therapeutic target for the treatment of psoriasis: a clinical feasibility study with STA-21, a Stat3 inhibitor.
      ). Indeed, proliferation rates of murine KC monolayer cultures are higher after IL-17A exposure (
      • Wu L.
      • Chen X.
      • Zhao J.
      • Martin B.
      • Zepp J.A.
      • Ko J.S.
      • et al.
      A novel IL-17 signaling pathway controlling keratinocyte proliferation and tumorigenesis via the TRAF4-ERK5 axis.
      ). Together with our data on human reconstituted epidermis, the mitogenic effects of IL-17A in the skin are now firmly established.
      In summary, our study points at a small set of cytokines that act as direct KC mitogens within the plethora and complexity of the skin inflammatory milieu and elaborates on the epidermis-specific mechanism of action of targeting therapies benefitting their positioning for specific disease endotypes.

      Materials and Methods

      3D HEE culture

      Primary human KC isolation and generation of 3D HEEs were performed as described previously (
      • Rikken G.
      • Niehues H.
      • van den Bogaard E.H.
      Organotypic 3D skin models: human epidermal equivalent cultures from primary keratinocytes and immortalized keratinocyte cell lines.
      ) and according to the principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Briefly, primary human KCs were seeded with a density of 150,000 cells into a 24-well transwell system (Nunc; Thermo Fischer Scientific, Waltham, MA) and cultured submerged for 2 days in a proliferation medium (CnT-PR; CELLnTEC, Bern, Switzerland). After 1 more day of submerged culture in differentiation promoting medium (CnT-PR-3D; CELLnTEC), the cultures were lifted to the air‒liquid interface and cultured thereafter for a total of 8 days, with refreshing of the medium every other day (
      • Niehues H.
      • Schalkwijk J.
      • van Vlijmen-Willems I.M.J.J.
      • Rodijk-Olthuis D.
      • van Rossum M.M.
      • Wladykowski E.
      • et al.
      Epidermal equivalents of filaggrin null keratinocytes do not show impaired skin barrier function.
      ). Cytokines and other tested factors supplemented to the culture medium during days 5‒8 of the culture, with refreshing at day 7, in different concentrations are depicted in Table 2. Concentrations of all tested factors were chosen on the basis of experience as well as literature. For signaling studies, inhibitors were added 24 hours before cytokine stimulation and left for costimulation until day 8. To label KC proliferation in time, 10 μM EdU was added into the medium for 24 hours before harvesting at the indicated time points.

      Immunohistochemistry

      HEEs were fixed in formalin and processed for routine histology. Paraffin sections (6 μm) were stained with antibodies using an indirect immunoperoxidase or immunofluorescence technique (Vectastain, Vector Laboratories, Burlingame, CA) to visualize KC proliferation. Details on antibodies are presented in Table 4.
      Table 4Antibodies/Chemicals Used for Immunohistochemistry/Immunofluorescence
      TargetAntibody CloneDilution
      Ki-67SP6, Abcam ab166671:200
      Chromatin4′,6-diamidino-2-fenylindool, Boehringer Mannheim1:3,000
      EdUClick-iT EdU Alexa Fluor 488 azide, Thermo Fischer Scientific1:1,000
      Abbreviation: EdU: 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine.

      Quantification of protein expression in immunohistochemical biopsy sections

      Image acquisition of immunohistochemical-stained HEE tissue sections was performed by a ZEISS Axio Imager equipped with a ZEISS Axiocam 105 color Digital Camera (Zeiss, Oberkochen, Germany) and a ×10 or ×20 objective. The ZEISS Axiocam 105 color is a compact 5-megapixel camera (2,560 ×1,920 pixels) for high-resolution images with a 1/2.5” sensor. The images were chosen as representative of the whole culture and stored in CZI format. The number of fields ranges from one to three images per slide (depending on the variation of proliferation in the HEE). The images were analyzed with the cell image analysis software CellProfiler (Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA) (
      • McQuin C.
      • Goodman A.
      • Chernyshev V.
      • Kamentsky L.
      • Cimini B.A.
      • Karhohs K.W.
      • et al.
      CellProfiler 3.0: next-generation image processing for biology.
      ). In CellProfiler, different algorithms are available that can be modified and placed in sequential order to form a pipeline for image analysis. Pipelines for Ki-67 and EdU analysis were created (available on request). Data visualization and statistical analysis were performed using GraphPad Prism (GraphPad software, San Diego, CA). To determine statistical significance between multiple groups (n ≥ 3 groups), the Kruskal‒Wallis test (a ranked-based nonparametric test) was used for all data obtained with CellProfiler. If significant, Dunn’s multiple comparison posthoc test was performed (∗P < 0.05). In each HEE culture experiment, the human KC donors used are biological replicates.

      Western blotting

      HEEs were lysed, and after a single cycle of freeze thawing, the lysates were centrifuged at maximum speed for 10 minutes at 4 °C. Actin antibody (Sigma-Aldrich, St. Louis, MO) was used to control equal protein loading. Before immunoblotting, proteins were separated by SDS-PAGE and transferred to polyvinylidene fluoride membranes using the NuPAGE system (Life Technologies, Carlsbad, CA). SuperSignal West Femto Maximum Sensitivity Substrate (Thermo Fisher Scientific, Waltham, MA) was used for detection by the Bio-Rad Universal Hood Gel Imager (Bio-Rad Laboratories, Hercules, CA). All antibodies used are listed in Table 5. Image analysis and quantification of the protein expressions were performed with the Bio-Rad Image Laboratory Software. To determine statistical significance, the Kruskal‒Wallis test was used followed by Dunn’s multiple comparison posthoc test.
      Table 5Antibodies/Chemicals Used for Western Blot Analysis
      TargetAntibody CloneDilution
      β-ActinAC-15, 121M 4846, Sigma Aldrich1:100,000
      pSTAT3Tyr705, Cell Signaling1:2,000
      pSTAT6pY641, BD Biosciences1:1,000
      Abbreviation: pSTAT, phosphorylated signal transducer and activator of transcription.

      Data availability statement

      No datasets were generated or analyzed during this study.

      ORCIDS

      Ivonne M.J.J. van Vlijmen-Willems: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3522-2573
      Patrick L.J.M. Zeeuwen: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6878-2438
      Ellen H. van den Bogaard: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4846-0287

      Conflicts of Interest

      This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or nonprofit sectors. The remaining authors state no conflicts of interest.

      Acknowledgments

      This study was supported by Meer Kennis met Minder Dieren funding initiative of ZonMw (Nederlandse organisatie voor gezondheidsonderzoek en zorginnovatie) with the grant number ZonMw-MKMD 40-42600-98-16102.

      Author Contributions

      Conceptualization: HN, GR, PLJMZ, JS, EHvdB; Data Curation: HN, GR, PEJvE; Formal Analysis: HN, GR, PEJvE; Funding Acquisition: JS, EHvdB; Investigation: HN, GR, IMJJvVW, DRO; Methodology: HN, GR, DRO, IMJJvVW, EHvdB; Project Administration: HN, GR, EHvdB; Software: PEJvE; Supervision: PLJMZ, JS, EHvdB; Validation: HN, GR, IMJJvVW, DRO; Visualization: HN, GR, PEJvE, PLJMZ, EHvdB; Writing - Original Draft Preparation: HN, GR; Writing - Review and Editing: PLJMZ, JS, EHvdB

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