Cytokines and cellular adhesion molecules (CAMs) may play a role in the inflammatory and fibrotic processes underlying systemic sclerosis (SSc). We compared the immunohistological distribution of cytokines and CAMs in skin biopsies from 12 SSc patients and 14 normal (NL) individuals. Among CAMs, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), which mediates leukocyte-endothelial adhesion, showed increased expression on SSc versus NL endothelium and stratum granulosum. P-selectin was up-regulated in SSc versus NL stratum granulosum. The CD44 lymphocyte homing receptor showed the most striking differences between SSc and NL: its expression was increased in SSc stratum granulosum, stratum spinosum, on lymphocytes, and macrophages. Regarding cytokines, interleukin-6 (IL-6) expression was increased on SSc versus NL endothelium and fibroblasts. Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) reactivity was more prevalent in SSc than NL stratum granulosum, whereas IL-8 expression was higher on SSc compared to NL endothelium. Some CAMs, such as VCAM-1 and P-selectin, and cytokines, namely TNF-α and IL-8, were more commonly found in skin biopsies taken from early ( < 1 year’s duration) SSc, while others, such as IL-6, showed up-regulation in the late stage of the disease. The results suggest that certain CAMs and cytokines may play a differential role in both the early, inflammatory, and the late, fibrotic stage of SSc.

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