Bone morphogenetic protein signaling regulates skin inflammation via modulating dendritic cell function

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2020 Oct 22;S0091-6749(20)31450-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2020.09.038. Online ahead of print.


Background: Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are members of the TGF-β family that signal via the BMP receptor (BMPR) signaling cascade, distinct from canonical TGF-β signaling. BMP downstream signaling is strongly induced within epidermal keratinocytes in cutaneous psoriatic lesions, and BMP7 instructs monocytic cells to acquire characteristics of psoriasis-associated Langerhans dendritic cells (DCs). Regulatory T (Treg)-cell numbers strongly increase during psoriatic skin inflammation and were recently shown to limit psoriatic skin inflammation. However, the factors mediating Treg-cell accumulation in psoriatic skin currently remain unknown.

Objective: We sought to investigate the role of BMP signaling in Treg-cell accumulation in psoriasis.

Methods: The following methods were used: immunohistology of patients and healthy controls; ex vivo models of Treg-cell generation in the presence or absence of Langerhans cells; analysis of BMP versus canonical TGF-β signaling in DCs and Treg cells; and modeling of psoriatic skin inflammation in mice lacking the BMPR type 1a in CD11c+ cells.

Results: We here demonstrated a positive correlation between Treg-cell numbers and epidermal BMP7 expression in cutaneous psoriatic lesions and show that unlike Treg cells from healthy skin, a portion of inflammation-associated Treg cells exhibit constitutive-active BMP signaling. We further found that BMPR signaling licenses inflammation-associated Langerhans cell/DC to gain an enhanced capacity to promote Treg cells via BMPR-mediated CD25 induction and that this effect is associated with reduced skin inflammation.

Conclusions: Psoriatic lesions are marked by constitutive high BMP7/BMPR signaling in keratinocytes, which instructs inflammatory DCs to gain enhanced Treg-cell-stimulatory activity. Locally secreted BMP7 can directly promote Treg-cell generation through the BMP signaling cascade.

Keywords: ALK3; BMP7; BMPR1a; Langerhans cells; monocyte-derived dendritic cell; psoriasis; regulatory T cells.