Expression pattern of VEGFR-1, -2, -3 and D2-40 protein in the skin of patients with systemic sclerosis.
ABSTRACT The earliest clinical symptoms of systemic sclerosis (SSc) relate to disturbances in the peripheral vascular system. However, detailed examination of the microcirculation including the lymphatics in the skin of patients with SSc has not been reported. The aim of our study was to examine the expression patterns of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR)-1, VEGFR-2, VEGFR-3 and the lymphatic endothelial cell marker D2-40 in the skin of SSc patients. Skin biopsy specimens from nine patients with SSc were analysed by immunohistochemistry using antibodies against VEGFR-1, VEGFR-2, VEGFR-3 and D2-40 protein. The lumen area of lymphatic vessels was measured. The data were statistically analysed using the Mann-Whitney U test, Wilcoxon signed-ranks or Spearman's rank correlation coefficient method. The intensity of VEGFR-2 and VEGFR-3 staining in the skin of patients with SSc was significantly higher than that in healthy controls. The lumen area of lymphatic vessels in the skin of patients with SSc was significantly larger than that in healthy controls. This study details the expression of VEGFR and D2-40 in the skin of patients with SSc, and highlights a possible role of microcirculatory dysfunction in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis.