We used T-cell receptor excision circles (TREC) to evaluate thymic function in adult patients with atopic dermatitis and psoriasis. We observed that men, but not women, with atopic dermatitis had a significantly faster decline in TREC content with increasing age compared with healthy men. In contrast, both men and women with psoriasis had significantly reduced TREC levels, which were, on average, only 30% of that of healthy persons. In atopic dermatitis the levels of TREC declined with increasing levels of IgE, disease intensity and extent of eczema. Furthermore, patients with atopic dermatitis showed signs of altered thymus function, as they had a significantly greater variation in TREC content measured over time than healthy controls, especially within the CD8+ T-cell subpopulation. Because both atopic derma nottitis and psoriasis patients have an increased number of T-cells, this indicates that atopic dermatitis patients can have compensatory emissions of thymic emigrants, whereas psoriatic patients do not, thus supporting different thymic function in these two diseases.
Acta Dermato Venereologica, 2008, Vol 88, p. 566-572