Nature Communications, 2013, Vol.4, p.1560
Aldara is a cream used for topical treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer, and is thought to act through stimulation of anti-tumour immunity. The active ingredient, imiquimod, has been shown to stimulate toll-like receptor 7. Aldara also induces psoriasis-like lesions when applied to naive murine skin, and as such is used as a mouse model for psoriasis. Here we find that in naive murine skin, Aldara induces inflammation largely independently of toll-like receptor 7. Surprisingly, inflammasome activation, keratinocyte death and interleukin 1 release also occur in response to the vehicle cream in the absence of imiquimod. We show that isostearic acid, a major component of the vehicle, promotes inflammasome activation in cultured keratinocytes, and so may contribute to the observed effects of Aldara on murine skin. Aldara therefore stimulates at least two immune pathways independently, and both imiquimod and vehicle are required for a full inflammatory response. Although it remains to be tested, it is possible that imiquimod-independent effects also contribute to the therapeutic efficacy of Aldara.
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