Psoriatic skin inflammation induces a pre-diabetic phenotype via the endocrine actions of skin secretome

Elizabeth Evans, Sophie Sayers, Xenia Kodji, Yue Xia, Mahum Shaikh, Alizah Rizvi, James Frame, Susan Brain, Michael Philpott, Rosalind Hannen, Paul Caton

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Objective: Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that is thought to affect ∼2% of the global population. Psoriasis has been associated with ∼30% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), with numerous studies reporting that psoriasis is an independent risk-factor for T2D, separate from underlying obesity. Separately, studies of skin-specific transgenic mice have reported altered whole-body glucose homeostasis in these models. These studies imply a direct role for skin inflammation and dysfunction in mediating the onset of T2D in psoriasis patients, potentially via the endocrine effects of the skin secretome on key metabolic tissues. We used a combination of in vivo and ex vivo mouse models and ex vivo human imiquimod (IMQ) models to investigate the effects of psoriasis-mediated changes in the skin secretome on whole-body metabolic function. Methods: To induce psoriatic skin inflammation, mice were topically administered 75 mg of 5% IMQ cream (or Vaseline control) to a shaved dorsal region for 4 consecutive days. On day 5, mice were fasted for glucose and insulin tolerance testing, or sacrificed in the fed state with blood and tissues collected for analysis. To determine effects of the skin secretome, mouse skin was collected at day 5 from IMQ mice and cultured for 24 h. Conditioned media (CM) was collected and used 1:1 with fresh media to treat mouse explant subcutaneous adipose tissue (sAT) and isolated pancreatic islets. For human CM experiments, human skin was exposed to 5% IMQ cream for 20 min, ex vivo, to induce a psoriatic phenotype, then cultured for 24 h. CM was collected, combined 1:1 with fresh media and used to treat human sAT ex vivo. Markers of tissue inflammation and metabolic function were determined by qPCR. Beta cell function in isolated islets was measured by dynamic insulin secretion. Beta-cell proliferation was determined by measurement of Ki67 immunofluorescence histochemistry and BrDU uptake, whilst islet apoptosis was assessed by caspase 3/7 activity. All data is expressed as mean ± SEM. Results: Topical treatment with IMQ induced a psoriatic-like phenotype in mouse skin, evidenced by thickening, erythema and inflammation of the skin. Topical IMQ treatment induced inflammation and signs of metabolic dysfunction in sub-cutaneous and epidydimal adipose tissue, liver, skeletal muscle and gut tissue. However, consistent with islet compensation and a pre-diabetic phenotype, IMQ mice displayed improved glucose tolerance, increased insulin and c-peptide response to glucose, and increased beta cell proliferation. Treatment of sAT with psoriatic mouse or human skin-CM replicated the in vivo phenotype, leading to increased inflammation and metabolic dysfunction in mouse and human sAT. Treatment of pancreatic islets with psoriatic mouse skin-CM induced increases in beta-proliferation and apoptosis, thus partially replicating the in vivo phenotype. Conclusions: Psoriasis-like skin inflammation induces a pre-diabetic phenotype, characterised by tissue inflammation and markers of metabolic dysfunction, together with islet compensation in mice. The in vivo phenotype is partially replicated by exposure of sAT and pancreatic islets to psoriatic-skin conditioned media. These results support the hypothesis that psoriatic skin inflammation, potentially via the endocrine actions of the skin secretome, may constitute a novel pathophysiological pathway mediating the development of T2D.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101047
JournalMolecular Metabolism
Early online date26 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Adipose tissue
  • Diabetes
  • Inflammation
  • Pancreatic islets
  • Psoriasis
  • Skin


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