Human Mast Cells Upregulate Cathepsin B, a Novel Marker of Itch in Psoriasis

Peter W West, Chiara Tontini, Haris Atmoko, Orsolya Kiss, Terence Garner, Rajia Bahri, Richard B Warren, Christopher E M Griffiths, Adam Stevens, Silvia Bulfone-Paus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mast cells (MCs) contribute to skin inflammation. In psoriasis, the activation of cutaneous neuroimmune networks commonly leads to itch. To dissect the unique contribution of MCs to the cutaneous neuroinflammatory response in psoriasis, we examined their density, distribution, relation to nerve fibres and disease severity, and molecular signature by comparing RNA-seq analysis of MCs isolated from the skin of psoriasis patients and healthy volunteers. In involved psoriasis skin, MCs and Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide (CGRP)-positive nerve fibres were spatially associated, and the increase of both MC and nerve fibre density correlated with disease severity. Gene set enrichment analysis of differentially expressed genes in involved psoriasis skin showed significant representation of neuron-related pathways (i.e., regulation of neuron projection along with dendrite and dendritic spine morphogenesis), indicating MC engagement in neuronal development and supporting the evidence of close MC-nerve fibre interaction. Furthermore, the analysis of 208 identified itch-associated genes revealed that CTSB, TLR4, and TACR1 were upregulated in MCs in involved skin. In both whole-skin published datasets and isolated MCs, CTSB was found to be a reliable indicator of the psoriasis condition. Furthermore, cathepsin B+ cells were increased in psoriasis skin and cathepsin B+ MC density correlated with disease severity. Therefore, our study provides evidence that cathepsin B could serve as a common indicator of the MC-dependent itch signature in psoriasis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2177
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2023


  • cathepsin B
  • itch
  • mast cells
  • psoriasis


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