Thalidomide increases human keratinocyte migration and proliferation

Maria R. Nasca, Edel A. O'Toole, Prema Palicharla, Dennis P. West, David T. Woodley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Thalidomide is reported to have therapeutic utility in the treatment of pyoderma gangrenosum, Behcet's disease, aphthous ulcers, and skin wounds. We investigated the effect of thalidomide on human keratinocyte proliferation and migration, two early and critical events in the re-epithelialization of skin wounds. Thalidomide at concentrations less than 1 μM did not affect keratinocyte viability. Using a thymidine incorporation assay, we found that thalidomide, at therapeutic concentrations, induced more than a 2.5-fold increase in the proliferative potential of the cells. Keratinocyte migration was assessed by two independent motility assays: a colloidal gold assay and an in vitro scratch assay. At optimal concentrations, thalidomide increased keratinocyte migration on a collagen matrix more than 2-fold in the colloidal gold assay and more than 3-fold in the scratch assay over control. Although pro-migratory, thalidomide did not alter the level of metalloproteinase-9 secreted into culture medium. Thalidomide did, however, induce a 2-4-fold increase in keratinocyte-derived interleukin-8, a pro-migratory cellular autocrine factor. Human keratinocyte migration and proliferation are essential for re-epithelialization of skin wounds. Interleukin-8 increases human keratinocyte migration and proliferation and is chemotactic for keratinocytes. Therefore, thalidomide may modulate keratinocyte proliferation and motility by a chemokine-dependent pathway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)720-724
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1999


  • Cytokine
  • Re-epithelialization
  • Wound healing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology

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