Topical inflammasome inhibition with disulfiram prevents irritant contact dermatitis

Clin Transl Allergy. 2021 Jul 22;11(5):e12045. doi: 10.1002/clt2.12045. eCollection 2021 Jul.


Background: The pathogenesis of contact dermatitis, a common inflammatory skin disease with limited treatment options, is held to be driven by inflammasome activation induced by allergens and irritants. We here aim to identify inflammasome-targeting treatment strategies for irritant contact dermatitis.

Methods: A high content screen with 41,184 small molecules was performed using fluorescent Apoptosis associated speck-like protein containing a CARD (ASC) speck formation as a readout for inflammasome activation. Hit compounds were validated for inhibition of interleukin (IL)-1β secretion. Of these, the approved thiuramdisulfide derivative disulfiram was selected and tested in a patch test model of irritant contact dermatitis in 25 healthy volunteers. Topical application of disulfiram, mometasone or vehicle was followed by application of sodiumdodecylsulfate (SDS) for 24 h each. Eczema induction was quantified by mexameter and laser speckle imaging. Corneocyte sampling of lesional skin was performed to assess inflammasome-mediated cytokines IL-1β and IL-18.

Results: Disulfiram induced a dose-dependent inhibition of ASC speck formation and IL-1β release in cellular assays in vitro. In vivo, treatment with disulfiram, but not with vehicle and less mometasone, inhibited SDS-induced eczema. This was demonstrated by significantly lower erythema and total perfusion values assessed by mexameter and laser speckle imaging for disulfiram compared to vehicle (p < 0.001) and/or mometasone (p < 0.001). Also, corneocyte IL-18 levels were significantly reduced after application of disulfiram compared to vehicle (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: We show that disulfiram is a dose-dependent inhibitor of inflammasome pathway activation in vitro and inhibitor of SDS-induced eczema in vivo. Topical application of disulfiram represents a potential treatment option for irritant contact dermatitis.

Keywords: autoinflammation; contact dermatitis; disulfiram; inflammasome; interleukin‐18.