Keratinocytes are the major cellular components of human epidermis and play a key role in the modulating cutaneous inflammation and toxic responses. In human chronic skin diseases, the common skin inflammatory phenotypes like skin barrier disruption and epidermal hyperplasia are manifested in epidermal keratinocytes by interactions with T helper (Th) cells. To find a common gene expression signature of human keratinocytes in chronic skin diseases, we performed a whole genome microarray analysis on normal human epidermal keratinocytes (NHKs) treated with IFNγ, IL-4, IL-17A or IL-22, major cytokines from Th1, Th2, Th17 or Th22 cells, respectively. The microarray results showed that the four genes, IL-24, PDZK1IP1, H19 and filaggrin, had common expression profiles in NHKs exposed to Th cell cytokines. In addition, the acute phase pro-inflammatory cytokines, IL-1β, IL-6 and TNFα, also change the gene transcriptional profile of IL-24, PDZK1IP1, H19, and filaggrin in NHKs as those of Th cytokines. Therefore, the signature gene set, consisting of IL-24, PDZK1IP1, H19, and filaggrin, provides essential insights for understanding the process of cutaneous inflammation and toxic responses. We demonstrate that environmental toxic stressors, such as chemical irritants and ultraviolet irradiation stimulate the production of IL-24 in NHKs. IL-24 stimulates the JAK1-STAT3 and MAPK pathways in NHKs, and promotes the secretion of pro-inflammatory mediators IL-8, PGE2, and MMP-1. These results suggest that keratinocyte-derived IL-24 participates in the positive feedback regulation of epidermal inflammation in response to both endogenous and environmental toxic stressors.
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