Localization of endothelial proliferation and microvascular expansion in active plaque psoriasis

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Expansion of the dermal microvasculature is a prominent feature of psoriasis. Although the pathogenetic process resulting in vascular morphological changes remains unclear, considerable evidence suggests the involvement of angiogenesis. To assess the degree and site of psoriatic microvascular expansion, immunohistochemical studies were performed on paired lesional and non-lesional specimens from 10 patients with active, untreated plaque psoriasis. Five-μm thick sections were labelled with monoclonal antibody JC/70A specific for the endothelial marker CD31, and vascular quantification was achieved using hue-saturation-intensity image analysis. Assessment of vasculature in the papillary dermis (superficial plexus) demonstrated a fourfold increase in endothelial surface area of lesional compared with non-lesional skin (P < 0.01), while there was no significant increase in vasculature of the upper reticular dermis. Subsequently, 18-μm thick sections were double-labelled with MIB-1 antibody to the nuclear proliferation marker Ki-67 and JC/70A. Endothelial cell proliferation was identified in the vertical limbs of capillary loops in eight out of 10 lesional biopsies and in no non-lesional biopsies. The endothelial MIB-1 labelling index was 3.1% of total endothelial cells of the superficial plexus. These findings confirm endothelial proliferation underlying psoriatic microvascular expansion, and indicate that this process is limited to a specific site in the dermal capillary bed.

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