Hyperproliferation of keratinocytes (KCs) in psoriasis has been found to be associated with excessive activation of a phospholipase C (PLC)/protein kinase C (PKC) signal transduction system. The molecular species of PLCs which are activated in psoriasis have not been thoroughly investigated. It was envisaged that if glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-specific PLC was activated in the membrane of psoriatic epidermal cells, it would render these cells devoid of those proteins which are anchored to the cell membrane through their GPI moiety. In order to test this possibility, four GPI proteins (CD16, CD55, CD58, and CD59) were determined immunohistochemically in normal and psoriatic skin. In normal skin, CD55 and CD59 were strongly expressed on epithelium and vascular structures, whereas CD16 and CD58 were strongly expressed only on epithelium. The expression of all four GPI proteins was decreased in non-lesional psoriatic skin and virtually abolished in lesional psoriatic skin. A control transmembrane protein, CD46, was strongly expressed in normal and non-lesional psoriatic skin, and its expression was not significantly decreased in psoriatic lesions. The absence or reduction of GPI proteins was not seen in the lesions of several other inflammatory and proliferative diseases studied.