Background: Interleukin (IL)-13 is a T-cell-derived cytokine that shares several functions with IL-4, including the induction of immunoglobulin E synthesis. Recent studies suggest that cytokines expressed locally in the skin play several critical roles in atopic dermatitis (AD), however, little is known about the role of IL-13 in AD lesions. Objectives: The present study was designed to characterize the involvement of IL-13 in AD in the skin and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC). Methods: Using lesional and nonlesional skin from adult AD patients and normal skin from healthy volunteers, we performed RT-PCR, in situ RT and immunostaining to determine the IL-13 expression at the mRNA and protein levels. The actual numbers of IL-13 expressing cells in biopsy specimens were counted under the microscope. IL-13 mRNA expression in PBMC from AD patients and healthy volunteers was examined by RT-PCR analysis. Results: IL-13 mRNA expression was detected by RT-PCR in lesional and nonlesional skin and in PBMC from AD patients, but not in normal skin or PBMC from healthy volunteers. In AD lesional skin, numerous IL-13 mRNA-positive cells were demonstrated by in situ RT, and similar numbers of IL-13-positive cells were also detected immunohistochemically. Smaller numbers of IL-13-positive cells were observed in AD nonlesional skin and in normal skin. The differences in the numbers of IL-13-expressing cells between lesional and nonlesional skin were statistically significant. Double immunostaining revealed that IL-13 was produced in approximately 40% of T cells and 20% of mast cells in AD lesional skin, suggesting that T cells and mast cells are major sources of IL-13 in AD lesions. Conclusion: IL-13 may play a local as well as a systemic role in the development of AD lesions.

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