Apremilast mechanism of action and application to psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis

Biochem Pharmacol. 2012 Jun 15;83(12):1583-90. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2012.01.001. Epub 2012 Jan 10.


Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are common clinical conditions that negatively impact health-related quality of life and are linked to serious medical comorbidities. Disease mechanisms involve local and systemic chronic inflammatory processes. Available biologic therapies specifically target single inflammatory mediators, such as tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), in the context of a larger inflammatory signaling cascade. To interrupt this pathological cascade earlier in the response or further upstream, and return pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory signaling to a homeostatic balance, the use of a phosphodiesterase4 (PDE4) inhibitor has been explored. PDE4 is the major enzyme class responsible for the hydrolysis of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), an intracellular second messenger that controls a network of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mediators. With PDE4 inhibition, and the resulting increases in cAMP levels in immune and non-immune cell types, expression of a network of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory mediators can be modulated. Apremilast is an orally available targeted PDE4 inhibitor that modulates a wide array of inflammatory mediators involved in psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, including decreases in the expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase, TNF-α, and interleukin (IL)-23 and increases IL-10. In phase II studies of subjects with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, apremilast reversed features of the inflammatory pathophysiology in skin and joints and significantly reduces clinical symptoms. The use of an oral targeted PDE4 inhibitor for chronic inflammatory diseases, like psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, represents a novel treatment approach that does not target any single mediator, but rather focuses on restoring a balance of pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory signals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Psoriatic / drug therapy*
  • Cyclic AMP / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Interleukins / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / metabolism
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Psoriasis / drug therapy*
  • Thalidomide / analogs & derivatives*
  • Thalidomide / pharmacology
  • Thalidomide / therapeutic use
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Interleukins
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Thalidomide
  • Cyclic AMP
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • apremilast