With a complex etiology involving multiple factors, the condition known as itch is a primary symptom of many skin diseases. Current treatment methods are ineffective for addressing itches caused by dry skin, for example. We developed a botanical extract, ACTPER, made from a mixture of Actinidia arguta and Perilla frutescens, which have traditionally been used to treat itch. The quality of ACTPER as a research agent was controlled in our experiment by cell-based bioassays, as well as by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), using two chemical markers. In the acetone-induced dry skin mice model, the oral administration of ACTPER alleviated dry skin-related skin properties and itching behavior. The RNA and protein expression of the filament aggregating protein (filaggrin) gene, a key factor involved in the regulation of skin barrier function, was significantly increased, as measured by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and immunofluorescence assay. To understand the underlying mechanism(s) at the molecular level, HaCaT cells, a human keratinocyte-derived cell line, were treated with various concentrations of ACTPER. We found that the protein expression of filaggrin was indeed upregulated by ACTPER in a dose dependent manner. Data from experiments involving the reporter plasmid containing the xenobiotic response element (XRE), and the chemical antagonist for the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), indicated that the ACTPER-mediated upregulation of filaggrin was controlled through the activation of the AhR signaling pathway. The molecular docking simulation study predicted that ACTPER might contain chemical compounds that bind directly to AhR. Taken together, our results suggest that ACTPER may provide the platform, based upon which a variety of safe and effective therapeutic agents can be developed to treat itch.
Keywords: ACTPER; AhR; dry-skin; filaggrin; itch.