Effects of topical retinoids on cytoskeletal proteins: implications for retinoid effects on epidermal differentiation

J Invest Dermatol. 1992 Feb;98(2):154-61. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12555767.


In vivo effects of retinoids on epidermal differentiation were investigated by analyzing cytoskeletal proteins in rhino mice treated topically with all-trans-retinoic acid (RA) and other retinoids (13-cis-retinoic acid, etretinate, TTNPB). Non-disulfide-linked cytoskeletal proteins, including keratins from the epidermal "living layers," were first selectively extracted using 9.5 M urea; subsequently, keratins of the stratum corneum were isolated using 9.5 M urea plus a reducing agent. Gel electrophoresis and immunoblot analysis showed that urea extracts of epidermis from vehicle-treated skin were composed predominantly of four major keratins (analogous to human epidermal keratins K1, K5, K10, and K14), and the keratin filament-associated protein filaggrin. In contrast, extracts of epidermis from retinoid-treated skin contained additional keratins (K6, K16, and K17) and almost no detectable filaggrin. Furthermore, similar analysis of stratum corneum keratins demonstrated that extracts from RA-treated skin did not contain the partially proteolyzed keratins typically observed in stratum corneum extracts of control animals. Hyperplasia-inducing agents (salicylic acid, croton oil) caused an increase in keratins K6, K16, and K17, but they did not effect filaggrin or alter proteolysis of stratum corneum keratins. The result that RA induced expression of keratins K6, K16, and K17, as commonly expressed in hyperproliferative epidermis, is consistent with the notion that retinoids increase epidermal cell proliferation in the basal and/or lower spinous layers. The findings that topical RA decreased filaggrin expression and reduced proteolysis of stratum corneum keratins, despite increased size and number of granular cells and the presence of an anucleate stratum corneum, suggest that topical RA may also modulate a later stage of epidermal differentiation involved in stratum corneum formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Croton Oil / pharmacology
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Filaggrin Proteins
  • Keratins / biosynthesis
  • Mice
  • Mice, Hairless
  • Retinoids / pharmacology*
  • Salicylates / pharmacology
  • Salicylic Acid
  • Skin / cytology


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • FLG protein, human
  • Filaggrin Proteins
  • Retinoids
  • Salicylates
  • Keratins
  • Croton Oil
  • Salicylic Acid