Background Microarray studies on the epidermal transcriptome in psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (AD) have revealed genes with disease-specific expression in keratinocytes of lesional epidermis. These genes are possible candidates for disease-specific pathogenetic changes, but could also provide a tool for molecular diagnostics of inflammatory skin conditions in general.
Objectives To analyse if gene expression signatures as found in purified epidermal cells from AD are also present in other eczematous conditions such as allergic and irritant contact dermatitis.
Methods We used real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction, immunohistochemistry and bioinformatics to investigate gene expression in different forms of eczema. Normal epidermis and psoriatic epidermis were analysed for comparison.
Results Carbonic anhydrase II was highly induced in epidermis from all forms of eczema but not in psoriasis. Remarkably, the presumed neuron-specific Nel-like protein 2 showed a strong induction only in AD epidermis. Interleukin-1F9, elafin, β-defensin-2 and vanin-3 were strongly induced in psoriasis, but not in any type of eczema. High levels of the chemokines CCL17 and CXCL10 were predominantly found in epidermis of allergic contact dermatitis. The chemokine CXCL8 was highly expressed in psoriasis, AD and allergic contact dermatitis, but not in irritant contact dermatitis. Cluster analysis or multinomial logistic regression indicated that expression levels of a set of seven genes are a strong predictor of the type of inflammatory response.
Conclusions These observations contribute to molecular diagnostic criteria for inflammatory skin conditions.