The exact pathogenesis of plaque psoriasis remains to be fully determined, but it is thought to depend on environmental and genetic factors that stimulate dysregulated innate and adaptive immune responses in the skin. The cytokine interleukin (IL)-17A plays a key role in host defence against extracellular bacteria and fungi. An increasing body of evidence suggests that IL-17A is also important in psoriasis pathogenesis. While IL-17A is a key product of Th17 cells, it is also produced by neutrophils, mast cells and Tc17 cells. Each of these cell types is found in psoriatic lesions. IL-17A acts on keratinocytes to increase expression of chemokines (e.g. CCL20, CXCL1, CXCL3, CXCL5, CXCL6 and CXCL8) involved in recruiting myeloid dendritic cells, Th17 cells and neutrophils to the lesion site. IL-17A induces production of antimicrobial peptides and proinflammatory cytokines that, in turn, may help sustain immune responses in the skin. Blocking IL-17A improved psoriasis-like pathology in experimental models, and reductions in IL-17 signalling have been associated with response to tumour necrosis factor-α blockers in patients with psoriasis. Agents that inhibit IL-17 are in development and preliminary clinical results for IL-17 inhibitors indicate the importance of IL-17A in psoriasis pathophysiology. In a proof-of-concept and two phase II trials, three agents markedly reduced disease severity in patients with moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis. One agent downregulated cytokines, chemokines and proteins associated with inflammatory responses in lesional skin. In summary, IL-17A is an attractive therapeutic target, which may allow selective intervention to address the dysregulated immune system in plaque psoriasis.
© 2012 The Authors. BJD © 2012 British Association of Dermatologists.