Immunoperoxidase staining of skin sections and immunofluorescence analysis of keratinocyte suspensions obtained from suction blisters of psoriatic plaques were performed using an mAb, Josh 524.4.1, and Fab'2 fragments of a rabbit antiserum, both of which are directed against nonpolymorphic determinants of HLA-DR molecules. HLA-DR+ keratinocytes were present in plaques, but not normal-appearing skin, from a significant portion of patients with active psoriasis. Double-labelling immunofluorescence experiments with either the monoclonal or polyclonal anti-HLA-DR antibody, in conjunction with the mAb OKT6, which identifies DR+ Langerhans cells, demonstrated that HLA-DR molecules were present on OKT6- keratinocytes. The dermal infiltrate of psoriatic plaques contained T cells expressing the activation antigens, IL-2 receptor (Tac) and HLA-DR, as well as macrophages and OKT6+ cells. There was little difference in the characteristics of the dermal infiltrate between the lesions with or without HLA-DR+ keratinocytes. OKT6+ presumptive Langerhans cells were also found in the dermal infiltrates of patients with lichen planus, contact dermatitis, spongiotic dermatitis, erythema multiforme, basal and squamous cell carcinoma. Studies of keratinocyte suspensions showed that 7-84% of keratinocytes were HLA-DR+. Flow cytometry experiments showed that keratinocytes at all stages of differentiation were HLA-DR+. However, the stem cell-enriched population contained the highest proportion of HLA-DR+ cells. HLA-DR expression by keratinocytes correlated with disease activity. The expression was reversible with successful medical therapy. HLA-DR+ keratinocytes may activate T cells directly or may present an as yet unknown antigen to T cells. These studies provide further support for the hypothesis that immunological mechanisms play an important role in the pathogenesis of psoriasis.

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