Balance of Treg versus T-effector cells during systemic treatment with adalimumab and topical treatment with calcipotriol–betamethasone dipropionate ointment

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Diminished suppressive capacity of regulatory T cells (Treg) has been demonstrated in blood and in lesional skin of psoriatic patients. Treatment with anti-TNFα restored the number and function of circulating Treg in psoriasis. We aimed to study Treg in the skin of psoriatic patients undergoing topical treatment with calcipotriol–betamethasone dipropionate (CBD) ointment (n = 12) or systemic treatment with anti-TNFα agent adalimumab (n = 10). Skin biopsies were collected from patients with chronic plaque psoriasis who responded to the above-mentioned treatments with a SUM-score improvement of at least 50% (at the end of treatment). Biopsies were processed for immunohistochemistry. As Treg function is associated with a numerical balance between Treg and effector T cells, Foxp3/CD4 ratios were calculated. It appeared that both treatments cause a significant decrease in the presence of Foxp3+ cells. However, in patients that were treated with CBD ointment, we observed lower Foxp3/CD4 ratios after 8 weeks of treatment compared to baseline (t = 0: 0.41 ± 0.08; t = 8: 0.22 ± 0.04, P = 0.033), whereas in patients who were treated with adalimumab we observed an increase of the Foxp3/CD4 ratios after 1.5 and 16 weeks of treatment compared to baseline (t = 0: 0.25 ± 0.04; t = 1.5: 0.32 ± 0.06; t = 16: 0.49 ± 0.10, P = 0.15). Based on Foxp3/CD4 ratios, we can conclude that adalimumab treated skin differs from CBD treated skin with regard to the anti-inflammatory/inflammatory balance. We suggest that, in contrast to CBD ointment, adalimumab favours local Treg function in the skin.

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