BMP7 aberrantly induced in the psoriatic epidermis instructs inflammation-associated Langerhans cells

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2020 Apr;145(4):1194-1207.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2019.12.011. Epub 2019 Dec 21.


Background: Epidermal hyperplasia represents a morphologic hallmark of psoriatic skin lesions. Langerhans cells (LCs) in the psoriatic epidermis engage with keratinocytes (KCs) in tight physical interactions; moreover, they induce T-cell-mediated immune responses critical to psoriasis.

Objective: This study sought to improve the understanding of epidermal factors in psoriasis pathogenesis.

Methods: BMP7-LCs versus TGF-β1-LCs were phenotypically characterized and their functional properties were analyzed using flow cytometry, cell kinetic studies, co-culture with CD4 T cells, and cytokine measurements. Furthermore, immunohistology of healthy and psoriatic skin was performed. Additionally, in vivo experiments with Junf/fJunBf/fK5cre-ERT mice were carried out to assess the role of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling in psoriatic skin inflammation.

Results: This study identified a KC-derived signal (ie, BMP signaling) to promote epidermal changes in psoriasis. Whereas BMP7 is strictly confined to the basal KC layer in the healthy skin, it is expressed at high levels throughout the lesional psoriatic epidermis. BMP7 instructs precursor cells to differentiate into LCs that phenotypically resemble psoriatic LCs. These BMP7-LCs exhibit proliferative activity and increased sensitivity to bacterial stimulation. Moreover, aberrant high BMP signaling in the lesional epidermis is mediated by a KC intrinsic mechanism, as suggested from murine data and clinical outcome after topical antipsoriatic treatment in human patients.

Conclusions: These data indicate that available TGF-β family members within the lesional psoriatic epidermis preferentially signal through the canonical BMP signaling cascade to instruct inflammatory-type LCs and to promote psoriatic epidermal changes. Targeting BMP signaling might allow to therapeutically interfere with cutaneous psoriatic manifestations.

Keywords: BMP7; Langerhans cells; TGF-β signaling; psoriasis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 7 / genetics
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 7 / metabolism*
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Epidermis / immunology*
  • Epidermis / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Keratinocytes / physiology*
  • Langerhans Cells / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Middle Aged
  • Psoriasis / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • BMP7 protein, human
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 7
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • Cytokines
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1