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Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2013;77(6):1282-6. Epub 2013 Jun 7.

Lutein, a nonprovitamin A, activates the retinoic acid receptor to induce HAS3-dependent hyaluronan synthesis in keratinocytes.

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Innovative Beauty Science Laboratory, Kanebo Cosmetics Inc., Odawara, Japan.


Carotenoids have been reported to have potent antioxidant activities and to protect tissues and cells from certain diseases and environmental insults. The molecular mechanism of the action of provitamin A carotenoids such as β-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin is mediated in part by retinoic acid, an active form of provitamin A, but the molecular basis of the biological activities of non-provitamin A carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin is not fully understood. In this study, we investigated to determine whether the actions of non-provitamin A carotenoids are mediated via retinoid signaling by monitoring retinoic acid receptor (RAR)-dependent hyaluronan production in cultured human keratinocytes. Not only β-carotene and β-cryptoxanthin, but also lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin, upregulated HAS3 gene expression and were followed by hyaluronan synthesis. We found that LE540, an antagonist of retinoic acid receptors, abolished lutein dependent hyaluronan synthesis and that lutein significantly increased retinoic acid responsive element (RARE)-driven transcript acitivity. In addition, we found that citral, an inhibitor of retinal dehydrogenases, decreased lutein-stimulated hyaluronan synthesis, indicating that lutein metabolites rather than lutein itself act as an RAR ligand in RAR-mediated transcription activity in keratinocytes. A series of non-provitamin A can be substituted for retinoids and should be considered as a potential means of improving skin health.

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