Background: Cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in keratinocytes. However, the signaling pathway through which cannabidiol exerts its effect on keratinocytes or whether it can modulate keratinocyte differentiation has not been fully elucidated yet.
Objective: We investigated whether cannabidiol modulates epidermal differentiation and scavenges reactive oxygen species through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) in keratinocytes and epidermal equivalents.
Methods: We investigated the cannabidiol-induced activation of AhR using AhR luciferase reporter assay, qRT-PCR, western blot, and immunofluorescence assays. We also analyzed whether keratinocyte differentiation and antioxidant activity are regulated by cannabidiol-induced AhR activation.
Results: In both keratinocytes and epidermal equivalents, cannabidiol increased both the mRNA and protein expression of filaggrin, involucrin, NRF2, and NQO1 and the mRNA expression of the AhR target genes, including CYP1A1 and aryl hydrocarbon receptor repressor. Additionally, cannabidiol showed antioxidant activity that was attenuated by AhR knockdown or co-administration with an AhR antagonist. Moreover, cannabidiol increased the ratio of OVOL1/OVOL2 mRNA expression, which is a downstream regulator of AhR that mediates epidermal differentiation. In addition to increased expression of barrier-related proteins, cannabidiol-treated epidermal equivalent showed a more prominent granular layer than the control epidermis. The increased granular layer by cannabidiol was suppressed by the AhR antagonist.
Conclusion: Cannabidiol can be a modulator of the AhR-OVOL1-filaggrin axis and AhR-NRF2-NQO1 signaling, thus indicating a potential use of cannabidiol in skin barrier enhancement and reducing oxidative stress.
Keywords: AhR; Antioxidant; CBD; Epidermal equivalents; NHEKs; Skin barrier.
Copyright © 2023 Japanese Society for Investigative Dermatology. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.