Kallikrein 7 Promotes Atopic Dermatitis-Associated Itch Independently of Skin Inflammation

J Invest Dermatol. 2020 Jun;140(6):1244-1252.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2019.10.022. Epub 2019 Dec 26.


Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a highly prevalent, itchy inflammatory skin disorder that is thought to arise from a combination of skin barrier defect and immune dysregulation. Kallikreins (KLK), a family of serine proteases with a diverse array of homeostatic functions, including skin desquamation and innate immunity, are hypothesized to contribute to AD pathogenesis. However, their precise role in AD has not been clearly defined. In this study, RNA sequencing analyses identified KLK7 as the most abundant and differentially expressed KLK in both human AD and murine AD-like skin. Further, in mice, Klk7 expression was localized to the epidermis in both steady state and inflammation. Unexpectedly, KLK7 was dispensable for the development of AD-associated skin inflammation. Instead, KLK7 was selectively required for AD-associated chronic itch. Even without the alleviation of skin inflammation, KLK7-deficient mice exhibited significantly attenuated scratching, compared with littermate controls, after AD-like disease induction. Collectively, our findings indicate that KLK7 promotes AD-associated itch independently from skin inflammation and reveal a previously unrecognized epidermal-neural mechanism of AD associated itch.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biopsy
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / complications*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / immunology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epidermis / immunology
  • Epidermis / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kallikreins / genetics
  • Kallikreins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Pruritus / etiology
  • Pruritus / pathology*
  • RNA-Seq
  • Up-Regulation


  • KLK7 protein, human
  • Kallikreins
  • Klk7 protein, mouse