• Open Access

Abundant immunoglobulin E-positive cells in skin lesions support an allergic etiology of atopic dermatitis in the elderly


  • Conflicts of Interest
    The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare in relation to this paper.

  • Funding sources
    None declared.

R. Tanei. E-mail: rtanei@aol.com


Background/Objectives  Atopic dermatitis (AD) in the elderly is gradually increasing in industrialized countries in association with the aging of society. We report herein four cases of elderly AD {three extrinsic [immunoglobulin (Ig)E-mediated allergy]; one intrinsic (non-IgE-allergy)} in which we investigated the presence of IgE+ cells in lesional skin.

Methods/Results  Single immunohistochemical and double immunofluorescence stainings were performed for skin biopsy specimens from AD patients and non-atopic control subjects with chronic eczema. In the lesional lichenified skin of patients with extrinsic elderly AD, numerous IgE+ cells were found among inflammatory cells infiltrates in the upper dermis. Comparative analysis of single immunohistochemistry results using serial paraffin and/or frozen sections found that many IgE+ cells showed identical distributions to tryptase+ mast cells. IgE+ cells coincident with CD1a+ Langerhans cells in the epidermis were found in small numbers only in frozen sections. Double immunofluorescence staining for IgE and CD11c revealed cells coexpressing IgE and CD11c with a dendritic morphology in the papillary and upper dermis. These IgE+ mast cells and IgE+ CD11c+ cells were also found in cured normal-looking skin from a patient with extrinsic elderly AD after successful treatment. Although only a few weakly positive IgE+ cells were detected, no IgE+CD11c+ cells were found in specimens from patients with intrinsic elderly AD or non-atopic chronic eczema.

Conclusion  IgE-mediated allergic inflammation may play an important role in the pathobiology of elderly AD, similar to other age groups of AD.