Plasmacytoid dendritic cells are absent in skin lesions of polymorphic light eruption

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Polymorphic light eruption (PLE) is a common photodermatosis of potential autoimmune origin, and an overlap with lupus erythematosus (LE) has been described. Plasmacytoid dendritic cell (PDC)-induced expression of interferon (IFN)-α has been found to be present in LE skin lesions and plays a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of LE by promoting autoimmunity. We therefore asked whether PDCs may also be involved in the pathogenesis of PLE and searched for those cells [which can be identified by their high levels of interleukin (IL)-3 receptor α chain (CD123), combined with other cell markers such as CD68] in skin lesions.


Paraffin-embedded biopsy specimens from a total of 27 patients with clinically and histologically confirmed PLE (nine women, mean age 32.7 years, age range 18–43), LE (seven women, four men, CCLE: n=4, SCLE: n=2, lupus tumidus: n=5, mean age 48.5 years, age range 41–65) or psoriasis (four women, three men, mean age 43.3 years, age range 19–54) (as control group) were analyzed by immunohistochemical CD68/CD123 double staining. Quantification of the immunohistochemical staining was performed by visual cell counting of CD68−/CD123+, CD68+/123–, and CD68+/CD123+ cells separately in the epidermis and dermis of the samples in at least 10 random fields per sample at × 400 microscopic magnification by two of the investigators in a blinded fashion.


Microscopic examination of the immunohistochemically stained sections revealed that CD68+/CD123+ cells were present in most specimens obtained from LE [10/11 (91%)] and psoriasis [6/7 (86%)] patients but not at all in those obtained from PLE patients. Quantification and statistical analysis of the dermal infiltrate revealed that CD68+/CD123+ cells were present at a mean±SEM field density of 5.6±1.3 in LE, 1.6±0.6 in psoriasis but totally absent in PLE (P=0.0010 vs. LE, P=0.0135 vs. psoriasis by an unpaired Student's t-test).


The results confirm the potential significance of PDCs in LE and psoriasis, however the absence of PDCs in PLE contradicts the hypothesis that these cells might play a role in the latter disease.

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