The effects of topical and systemic administration of various glucocorticoids on the density of epidermal Langerhans cells (LC) were studied in guinea pigs. Glucocorticoids, such as betamethasone dipropionate and valerate, caused a marked decrease in LC demonstrable by staining for cell membrane ATPase activity and Ia antigens. By electronmicroscopy, LC also showed morphologic alterations. The observed decrements in LC density correlated with the concentration and known vasoconstrictive potency of the glucocorticoids administered. The anti-inflammatory action of glucocorticoids in skin disorders may, at least in part, be through their ability to alter epidermal LC, thus interfering with the antigen-presenting functions of these cells.

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