Glucocorticoids enhance Toll-like receptor 2 expression in human keratinocytes stimulated with Propionibacterium acnes or proinflammatory cytokines

J Invest Dermatol. 2009 Feb;129(2):375-82. doi: 10.1038/jid.2008.237. Epub 2008 Aug 14.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) on keratinocytes are important cell surface receptors involved in the innate and acquired immune response to invading microorganisms. In acne vulgaris, TLR2 activation by Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) may induce skin inflammation via induction of various proinflammatory molecules that stimulate the invasion of inflammatory cells. Although corticosteroids themselves exert immunosuppressive or anti-inflammatory effects, it is well known clinically that systemic or topical glucocorticoid treatment provokes an acneiform reaction. Nevertheless, the effect of steroids on TLR2 expression in human keratinocytes remains unknown. Here, we found that the addition of glucocorticoids, such as dexamethasone and cortisol, to cultured human keratinocytes increased their TLR2 gene expression. Moreover, these glucocorticoids markedly enhanced TLR2 gene expression, which was further stimulated by P. acnes, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and IL-1alpha. Gene expression of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) phosphatase-1 was also increased by the addition of dexamethasone. By using several inhibitors and activators, we found that TLR2 gene induction by glucocorticoids was mediated by the suppression of p38 MAPK activity following induction of MAPK phosphatase-1. These findings strongly suggest that steroid-induced TLR2 together with P. acnes existing as normal resident flora plays an important role in the exacerbation of acne vulgaris as well as in possible induction of corticosteroid-induced acne or in that of rosacea-like dermatitis.

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dermatitis / immunology
  • Dermatitis / microbiology
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Gene Expression / immunology
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / immunology
  • Gram-Positive Bacterial Infections / physiopathology*
  • Hormone Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / pharmacology
  • Interleukin-1alpha / pharmacology
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Keratinocytes / immunology
  • Keratinocytes / microbiology*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects
  • Mifepristone / pharmacology
  • Propionibacterium acnes*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / genetics*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2 / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Hormone Antagonists
  • Interleukin-1alpha
  • TLR2 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Mifepristone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Hydrocortisone