Multiparameter flow cytometry as a tool to evaluate antipsoriatic therapy



Objective comparison of different antipsoriatic therapies requires quantitative assessment of disease severity. However, clinical assessment with the widely used Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) introduces inaccuracy. An alternative is the quantitative analysis of different epidermal cell parameters using multiparameter flow cytometry. Our aim in the present study was to compare the clinical and flow cytometric approach to monitor disease activity and to evaluate antipsoriatic efficacy. Clinical scores for erythema, induration and scaling were assessed and biopsies for flow cytometric analysis were obtained from the psoriatic plaques of 89 patients before and after treatment with different therapeutic regimens consisting of vitamin D3 analogues and corticosteroids. In total, 219 epidermal cell suspensions were analysed using triple-labelling, with the simultaneous staining of markers for epidermal proliferation (DNA dye TO-PRO-3), differentiation (antikeratin 10), and inflammation (antivimentin). Correlation analysis was performed on 166 paired values obtained from 83 patients. A highly significant correlation was observed between erythema and the percentage of vimentin-positive cells, between scaling and the percentage of keratin 10 positive keratinocytes, and between induration and the number of basal keratinocytes in the S- and G2M phase, when all 166 biopsies were assessed. The correlation remained in the same range if the analysis was restricted to the 83 pretreatment biopsies. In contrast to the clinical scores, the flow cytometric analysis permitted a clear separation between the antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory or keratinization-enhancing effects of antipsoriatic treatment. The vitamin D3 analogues proved to exert a mainly antiproliferative effect. The combination of calcipotriol and a topical corticosteroid improved all cell biological markers substantially, and clobetasol monotherapy had a powerful effect on these markers. In conclusion, multiparameter flow cytometry has been shown to be a sensitive tool to evaluate the growth inhibiting, anti-inflammatory and keratinization-enhancing effects of antipsoriatic therapies.