Tumour necrosis factor alpha is pro-inflammatory in normal human skin and modulates cutaneous adhesion molecule expression

Br J Dermatol. 1995 Mar;132(3):345-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.1995.tb08666.x.


Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) is a potent immunoregulatory cytokine produced by many cutaneous cells, including keratinocytes, mast cells and Langerhans cells. To explore its potential role in inflammatory skin disease, we have studied immunohistochemically the effects of intradermal recombinant human TNF-alpha (rHuTNF-alpha) on cutaneous inflammatory cells, adhesion molecules and Langerhans cells in normal human skin. Volunteers receive rHuTNF-alpha 100 U (group A), 5000 U (group B), or 100 U daily for 5 days (group C), and biopsies were taken at 6 h (groups A and B), or 6 h after the final injection (group C). An inflammatory cell infiltrate developed in all cases: following single injections of either 100 or 5000 U rHuTNF-alpha this was predominantly neutrophilic, whereas following multiple injections of 100 U few neutrophils were seen, although many lymphocytes (CD3+, CD4+) were present. In all groups there was an increase in cells of monocyte/macrophage lineage (CD36+). TNF-alpha induced a dose- and time-dependent decrease in CD1a+ epidermal Langerhans cell numbers and an increase in dermal CD1a+ cells, suggesting migration of Langerhans cells away from the epidermis. TNF-alpha induced endothelial E-selectin, intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) in all groups, and adhesion molecule expression by interstitial dermal dendritic cells (ICAM-1 and VCAM-1) and keratinocytes (ICAM-1) was observed. These findings indicate that TNF-alpha is a potent modulator of cutaneous immune function in vivo, and this central role in the cutaneous immune response suggests that TNF-alpha may be an attractive target for therapeutic inhibition.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, CD1
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / biosynthesis*
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Dermatitis / etiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Erythema / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Langerhans Cells / drug effects
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Neutrophils
  • Recombinant Proteins / pharmacology
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, CD1
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha