Expression of IL-22 in the Skin Causes Th2-Biased Immunity, Epidermal Barrier Dysfunction, and Pruritus via Stimulating Epithelial Th2 Cytokines and the GRP Pathway.J Immunol 2017; 198(7):2543-2555JI
Increased expression of Th22 cytokine IL-22 is a characteristic finding in atopic dermatitis (AD). However, the specific role of IL-22 in the pathogenesis of AD in vivo has yet to be elucidated. Consistent with observations in human AD, IL-22 was significantly increased in the AD skin of mice after epicutaneous sensitization to house dust mite allergen. Utilizing a skin-specific inducible transgenic system, we show in the present study that expression of IL-22 in the skin of mice caused an AD-like phenotype characterized by chronic pruritic dermatitis associated with Th2-biased local and systemic immune responses, downregulation of epidermal differentiation complex genes, and enhanced dermatitis upon epicutaneous allergen exposure. IL-22 potently induced the expression of gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP), a neuropeptide pruritogen, in dermal immune cells and sensory afferents and in their skin-innervating sensory neurons. IL-22 also differentially upregulated the expression of GRP receptor (GRPR) on keratinocytes of AD skin. The number of GRP+ cells in the skin correlated with the AD severity and the intensity of pruritus. IL-22 directly upregulated the expression of epithelial-derived type 2 cytokines (thymic stromal lymphopoietin and IL-33) and GRP in primary keratinocytes. Furthermore, GRP not only strongly induced thymic stromal lymphopoietin but it also increased the expression of IL-33 and GRPR synergistically with IL-22. Importantly, we found that the expression of GRP was strikingly increased in the skin of patients with AD. These results indicate that IL-22 plays important pathogenic roles in the initiation and development of AD, in part through inducing keratinocyte production of type 2 cytokines and activation of the GRP/GRPR pathway.