Expression of interleukin-17 is correlated with interferon-α expression in cutaneous lesions of lupus erythematosus

Clin Exp Dermatol. 2011 Jul;36(5):512-20. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2230.2010.03996.x. Epub 2011 Jun 2.


Background: Type I interferon (IFN) has been reported to have an important role in the development of cutaneous lupus erythematosus (CLE) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). A new subset of CD4+ T cells, T helper (Th)17 cells, also plays a role in the development of autoimmunity.

Aim: To investigate expression of interleukin (IL)-17 and IFN-α in different CLE subsets, and their associations with the pathogenesis of LE.

Methods: Skin tissue samples from 33 cases, including chronic discoid LE (n = 24), acute (A)CLE (n = 4), subacute CLE (n = 1) and lupus panniculitis (n = 4) were collected for immunohistochemistry. Expression of IL-6, IL-17A, IFN-α, IFN-γ, myxovirus protein (Mx)A and transforming growth factor (TGF)-β was assessed in these samples.

Results: All LE specimens had staining for IL-6 and TGF-β in the infiltrated inflammatory cells. IL-17A staining was seen in 84.8% of specimens, and IFN-α or MxA was seen in 93.9%. TGF-β expression in ACLE was significantly greater than that in both chronic cutaneous (CC)LE and in lupus panniculitis (P = 0.02 for both). Expression of IL-17A was positively associated with expression of IFN-α and MxA (Spearman's ρ = 0.56 and 0.39, respectively). In addition, the Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus Disease Area and Severity Index (CLASI) correlated positively with expression of IFN-α and MxA (ρ = 0.40 for both), whereas there was no correlation with IL-17A expression.

Conclusions: Two major cytokines, IL-17A and IFN-α, may play roles in the pathogenesis of CLE. Their patterns of expression positively correlated with each other.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoantibodies / analysis
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-alpha / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Cutaneous / immunology*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Cutaneous / pathology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Discoid / immunology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Discoid / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Panniculitis, Lupus Erythematosus / immunology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Skin / immunology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • Autoantibodies
  • Cytokines
  • Interferon-alpha
  • Interleukin-17
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta