Increased corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) expression in cutaneous lupus lesions.

PMID 25634068


Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) axis activation leads to the production of hormones, such as adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) and the α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH). Data regarding the role of these hormones in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are scarce. In the present study we aim to evaluate the participation of this axis in the cutaneous involvement of SLE. Seventeen SLE patients were clinically evaluated, and biopsies from affected and unaffected skin of these patients were compared with 17 healthy control individuals. Immunohistochemical analyses for CRH, ACTH, α-MSH, and MC-1R were performed, and the serum levels of α-MSH, IL-1, IL-1ra, IL-6, IL-10, IL-12p70, IL-17, TNF-α, and IFN-γ were measured. The affected skin of the SLE patients exhibited higher CRH expression in the deep dermis compared to the skin of the controls (p = 0.024), whereas the tissue expression of ACTH, cortisol, α-MSH and its receptor MC-1R were comparable in SLE patients and controls. Higher serum levels of IFN-γ (p = 0.041), TNF-α (p = 0.001) and IL-6 (p = 0.049) were observed in SLE patients compared with controls, while α-MSH levels were similar in both groups. The novel finding of elevated CRH expression solely in the affected skin deep dermis supports the notion of a cutaneous local dysfunction of the CRH-POMC axis in the pathogenesis of cutaneous SLE lesions.