IL-17 and TNF synergistically modulate cytokine expression while suppressing melanogenesis: potential relevance to psoriasis

J Invest Dermatol. 2013 Dec;133(12):2741-2752. doi: 10.1038/jid.2013.237. Epub 2013 Apr 30.


Inflammation-associated pigmentation changes are extremely common, but the etiology underlying this clinical observation remains elusive. Particularly, it is unclear how the myriad of cytokines known to be involved in inflammatory skin processes affect epidermal melanocytes. We sought to determine how IL-17 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) influence normal human melanocytes, as these two cytokines have been implicated in various skin diseases. IL-17 and TNF jointly stimulated broad inductions of cytokines, including melanoma mitogens CXCL1 and IL-8. Moreover, IL-17 and TNF synergistically inhibited pigmentation-related signaling and melanin production, and induced keratinocyte production of β-defensin 3, an antagonist for melanocortin 1 receptor. When analyzing psoriasis lesions that are known to overexpress IL-17 and TNF, we observed an increase in melanocyte number and a simultaneous decrease in pigmentation signaling. Furthermore, therapeutic neutralization of TNF and IL-17 with mAbs resulted in a rapid recovery of pigment gene expression in psoriasis lesions. These results demonstrate that IL-17 and TNF can affect both the growth and pigment production of melanocytes, which may contribute to the pigmentation changes associated with psoriasis. These findings may allow the development of novel therapeutics for pigmentary disorders and bring new insights into the immune milieu surrounding melanocytes and related neoplasms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chemokine CXCL1 / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Interleukin-17 / physiology*
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • Melanocytes / cytology*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Psoriasis / metabolism*
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism*
  • beta-Defensins / metabolism


  • CXCL1 protein, human
  • Chemokine CXCL1
  • Cytokines
  • DEFB103A protein, human
  • Interleukin-17
  • Interleukin-8
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • beta-Defensins