Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a disease of unknown etiopathogenesis that affects 5% of the population. In this study, we investigated expression of mRNA for IL-1 alpha, IL-6, IL-4, IFN-gamma, and the stress-inducible MICA molecule in skin biopsies from 12 patients with moderate to severe seborrhoeic dermatitis and 2 healthy volunteers by RT-PCR and hybridization with specific probes. Eight patients expressed INF-gamma, 2 expressed IL-6, 8 expressed IL-1 alpha, and 2 expressed IL-4 (1 with moderate disease). Eight patients expressed inflammatory cytokines (IL-1 alpha, IL-6, and/or IFN-gamma) in healthy skin. Higher cytokine mRNA in damaged vs healthy skin was also observed, suggesting the existence of an inflammation that predisposes healthy skin to develop overt disease. Up-regulated expression of MICA mRNA was observed in 8 patients. Although the pathogenesis of seborrhoeic dermatitis remains to be elucidated, expression of cytotoxicity-activating ligands (MICA), recruitment of NK cells, and a local pro-inflammatory microenvironment may facilitate the development of tissue injury.