Interactions between infiltrating T cells and keratinocytes via the secretion of the TH1 cytokines interleukin (IL) 2 and interferon gamma (INF-gamma), the keratinocyte growth factor transforming growth factor alpha (TGF-alpha) and the cytokines IL-6 and IL-8 are thought to be the predominant mechanisms inducing skin lesions in psoriatic patients. Systemic treatment of psoriasis with fumaric acid derivatives (FAEs) has been reported to be effective in the treatment of psoriasis, but the mode of action is still unknown. To clarify this phenomenon, keratinocytes from psoriatic patients as well as from healthy volunteers were mono- and cocultured with HUT 78 T cells with/without the addition of FAEs; the cytokine concentrations were then measured in the culture supernatants. Furthermore, mRNA expression was determined in epidermal growth factor (EGF) -activated keratinocytes as well as in phytohaemagglutinin (PHA)-activated HUT 78 T cells. Only dimethylfumarate (DMF) diminished IL-6 and TGF-alpha secretion in the psoriatic cocultures. However, it did not have this effect on cocultures from control subjects or on monocultures. DMF suppresses EGF-induced TGF-alpha mRNA induction in psoriatic keratinocytes. DMF inhibited INF-gamma secretion in all cultures but stimulated the IL-10 secretion. This immunomodulation away from the TH1 cytokine IFN-gamma to the TH2 cytokine IL-10 was confirmed in HUT 78 T cells by Northern blot analysis. An increased number of eosinophils is a known side-effect in patients treated with this drug, suggesting a clinical relevance of this immunomodulation in vivo. This immunomodulation and the suppression of cytokines from the psoriatic cytokine network could be responsible for the beneficial effect of DMF in the treatment of a hyperproliferative and TH1 cytokine-mediated skin disease.