Background and purpose: Apremilast is an orally administered phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor, currently in phase 2 clinical studies of psoriasis and other chronic inflammatory diseases. The inhibitory effects of apremilast on pro-inflammatory responses of human primary peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), polymorphonuclear cells, natural killer (NK) cells and epidermal keratinocytes were explored in vitro, and in a preclinical model of psoriasis.
Experimental approach: Apremilast was tested in vitro against endotoxin- and superantigen-stimulated PBMC, bacterial peptide and zymosan-stimulated polymorphonuclear cells, immunonoglobulin and cytokine-stimulated NK cells, and ultraviolet B light-activated keratinocytes. Apremilast was orally administered to beige-severe combined immunodeficient mice, xenotransplanted with normal human skin and triggered with human psoriatic NK cells. Epidermal skin thickness, proliferation index and inflammation markers were analysed.
Key results: Apremilast inhibited PBMC production of the chemokines CXCL9 and CXCL10, cytokines interferon-γ and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-α, and interleukins (IL)-2, IL-12 and IL-23. Production of TNF-α by NK cells and keratinocytes was also inhibited. In vivo, apremilast significantly reduced epidermal thickness and proliferation, decreased the general histopathological appearance of psoriasiform features and reduced expression of TNF-α, human leukocyte antigen-DR and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 in the lesioned skin.
Conclusions and implications: Apremilast displayed a broad pattern of anti-inflammatory activity in a variety of cell types and decreased the incidence and severity of a psoriasiform response in vivo. Inhibition of TNF-α, IL-12 and IL-23 production, as well as NK and keratinocyte responses by this phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitor suggests a novel approach to the treatment of psoriasis.