ABSTRACT: Certain environmental factors including drugs exacerbate or precipitate psoriasis. Lithium is the commonest cause of drug-induced psoriasis but underlying mechanisms are currently unknown. Lithium inhibits glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3). As lithium does not exacerbate other T-cell-mediated chronic inflammatory diseases, we investigated whether lithium may be acting directly on epidermal keratinocytes by inhibiting GSK-3. We report that lithium-induced keratinocyte proliferation at therapeutically relevant doses (1-2 mM) and increased the proportion of cells in S phase of the cell cycle. Inhibition of GSK-3 in keratinocytes by retroviral transduction of GSK-binding protein (an endogenous inhibitory protein) or through a highly selective pharmacological inhibitor also resulted in increased keratinocyte proliferation. Nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) is an important substrate for GSK-3 and for cyclosporin, an effective treatment for psoriasis that inhibits NFAT activation in keratinocytes as well as in lymphocytes. Both lithium and genetic/pharmacological inhibition of GSK-3 resulted in increased nuclear localization of NFAT2 (NFATc1) and increased NFAT transcriptional activation. Finally, retroviral transduction of NFAT2 increased keratinocyte proliferation whereas siRNA-mediated knockdown of NFAT2 reduced keratinocyte proliferation and decreased epidermal thickness in an organotypic skin equivalent model. Taken together, these data identify GSK-3 and NFAT2 as key regulators of keratinocyte proliferation and as potential molecular targets relevant to lithium-provoked psoriasis.
Journal of Cellular Physiology 06/2011; 227(4):1529-37. · 3.87 Impact Factor