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SUMMARY

Sequential skin biopsies from six patients with severe psoriasis were studied during treatment with cyclosporin. Four of the patients cleared completely and the remaining two showed a marked improvement. A subset of dendritic cells, HLA-DR+ but lacking the T6 antigen characteristically expressed by Langerhans cells (DR+ 6-), was observed in lesional epidermis. They disappeared during treatment, before clinical improvement was apparent and at a rate which correlated with clearance of psoriasis. These cells were not found in normal or uninvolved psoriatic epidermis and their number in lesional skin appeared to be related to the clinical severity of the disease. Total numbers of CD4 and CD8, and HLA-DR+ CD8 T cells were substantially reduced in both epidermis and dermis prior to clinical improvement. In contrast, there was generally no decrease in the number of HLA-DR + CD4 T cells in the epidermis during resolution, whereas these cells were reduced by an average of 68% in the dermis. The beneficial effects of cyclosporin in psoriasis further support the hypothesis that T cells play a central role in the pathogenesis of psoriasis. The cellular changes observed in the skin during cyclosporin treatment may help to elucidate the effects of this drug on immunoregulatory mechanisms in man.