Background: Alterations in specific signal transduction pathways may explain the hyperproliferation and abnormal differentiation of the keratinocytes as well as the increased expression of inflammatory cytokines seen in psoriasis. Major signalling pathways used by eukaryotic cells to transduce extracellular signals into cellular responses impinge on the mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs).
Objectives: To investigate the expression of the MAPK p38, extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK) in psoriatic skin.
Methods: Keratome biopsies were taken from patients with plaque-type psoriasis. Western blot analysis was used to determine p38, ERK and JNK activity and protein levels, whereas kinase assays were used to examine the kinase activity of p38.
Results: We demonstrated increased levels of the phosphorylated forms of p38 and ERK1/2 in lesional psoriatic skin compared with nonlesional psoriatic skin. No abnormality was found in the activation and expression of JNK1/2. Ex vivo kinase assays confirmed the increased activation of p38, and furthermore demonstrated increased kinase activity of the p38 isoforms p38alpha, p38beta and p38delta in lesional compared with nonlesional psoriatic skin. p38gamma was not detected in the psoriatic skin. Clearance of the psoriatic lesions, induced by climatotherapy at the Dead Sea for 4 weeks, led to a normalization in the activity of both p38 and ERK1/2.
Conclusions: Taken together, our results demonstrate that the activity of the MAPKs p38alpha, p38beta and p38delta and ERK1/2 are increased in lesional psoriatic skin compared with nonlesional psoriatic skin, and that clearance of psoriasis normalizes the p38 and ERK1/2 activity. Thus, p38 and ERK1/2 might be potential targets in the treatment of psoriasis.