Research ArticleCancer

Epidermal EGFR Controls Cutaneous Host Defense and Prevents Inflammation

Science Translational Medicine  21 Aug 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 199, pp. 199ra111
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3005886

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Abstract

The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) plays an important role in tissue homeostasis and tumor progression. However, cancer patients treated with EGFR inhibitors (EGFRIs) frequently develop acneiform skin toxicities, which are a strong predictor of a patient’s treatment response. We show that the early inflammatory infiltrate of the skin rash induced by EGFRI is dominated by dendritic cells, macrophages, granulocytes, mast cells, and T cells. EGFRIs induce the expression of chemokines (CCL2, CCL5, CCL27, and CXCL14) in epidermal keratinocytes and impair the production of antimicrobial peptides and skin barrier proteins. Correspondingly, EGFRI-treated keratinocytes facilitate lymphocyte recruitment but show a considerably reduced cytotoxic activity against Staphylococcus aureus. Mice lacking epidermal EGFR (EGFRΔep) show a similar phenotype, which is accompanied by chemokine-driven skin inflammation, hair follicle degeneration, decreased host defense, and deficient skin barrier function, as well as early lethality. Skin toxicities were not ameliorated in a Rag2-, MyD88-, and CCL2-deficient background or in mice lacking epidermal Langerhans cells. The skin phenotype was also not rescued in a hairless (hr/hr) background, demonstrating that skin inflammation is not induced by hair follicle degeneration. Treatment with mast cell inhibitors reduced the immigration of T cells, suggesting that mast cells play a role in the EGFRI-mediated skin pathology. Our findings demonstrate that EGFR signaling in keratinocytes regulates key factors involved in skin inflammation, barrier function, and innate host defense, providing insights into the mechanisms underlying EGFRI-induced skin pathologies.

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