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Exp Dermatol. 2012 Sep;21(9):688-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0625.2012.01561.x.

Cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 oppositely regulate epidermal permeability barrier status and differentiation.

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Department of Dermatology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium.


Cannabinoid receptors (CBR) 1 and 2 have been implicated in keratinocyte differentiation/proliferation. How CB receptors affect epidermal permeability barrier and stratum corneum structure and function remains unclear. Permeability barrier abrogation was induced by sequential tape-stripping of the SC and assessed in both CB1R and CB2R knockout (-/-) mice in comparison with wild-type (+/+) littermates. Absence of CB1R delays permeability barrier recovery, while the latter was found to be accelerated in CB2R -/- mice. While increased lamellar body (LB) secretion is observed in CB2R -/- mice accounting for the enhanced recovery, CB1R -/- animals display strong alterations in lipid bilayer structures. Markers for epidermal differentiation (i.e. filaggrin, loricrin and involucrin) and terminal differentiation (i.e. TUNEL assay and caspase-14 activation) were respectively decreased and increased in CB1R and CB2R -/- mice. Surprisingly, CB1R agonist treatment of human cultured keratinocytes increases mRNA of p21 and cytokeratin 1 and 10 and decreases cyclin D1 but protein levels remained unchanged. Such paradox could partially be explained by the increase in non-phosphorylated-4E-BP1, an inhibitor of mRNA translation, following CB1R agonist treatment. Altogether, these observations put forward the importance and the complexity of cannabinoid signalling for the regulation of permeability barrier and epidermal differentiation.

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