Suppression of hyperactive immune responses protects against nitrogen mustard injury

Liemin Au, Jeffrey P. Meisch, Lopa M. Das, Amy M. Binko, Rebecca S. Boxer, Amy M. Wen, Nicole F. Steinmetz, Kurt Q. Lu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


DNA alkylating agents like nitrogen mustard (NM) are easily absorbed through the skin and exposure to such agents manifest not only in direct cellular death but also in triggering inflammation. We show that toxicity resulting from topical mustard exposure is mediated in part by initiating exaggerated host innate immune responses. Using an experimental model of skin exposure to NM we observe activation of inflammatory dermal macrophages that exacerbate local tissue damage in an inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS)-dependent manner. Subsequently these activated dermal macrophages reappear in the bone marrow to aid in disruption of hematopoiesis and contribute ultimately to mortality in an experimental mouse model of topical NM exposure. Intervention with a single dose of 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 (25(OH)D) is capable of suppressing macrophage-mediated iNOS production resulting in mitigation of local skin destruction, enhanced tissue repair, protection from marrow depletion, and rescue from severe precipitous wasting. These protective effects are recapitulated experimentally using pharmacological inhibitors of iNOS or by compounds that locally deplete skin macrophages. Taken together, these data highlight a critical unappreciated role of the host innate immune system in exacerbating injury following exposure to NM and support the translation of 25(OH)D in the therapeutic use against these chemical agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2971-2981
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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