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EBioMedicine. 2019 Feb 5. pii: S2352-3964(19)30042-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2019.01.055. [Epub ahead of print]

PI3K inhibitors protect against glucocorticoid-induced skin atrophy.

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Department of Dermatology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA.
ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA.
Institute for Next Generation Healthcare, Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA.
Department of Dermatology, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA. Electronic address:



Skin atrophy is a major adverse effect of topical glucocorticoids. We recently reported that REDD1 (regulated in development and DNA damage 1) and FKBP51 (FK506 binding protein 5), negative regulators of mTOR/Akt signaling, are induced by glucocorticoids in mouse and human skin and are central drivers of steroid skin atrophy. Thus, we hypothesized that REDD1/FKBP51 inhibitors could protect skin against catabolic effects of glucocorticoids.


Using drug repurposing approach, we screened LINCS library ( to identify repressors of REDD1/FKBP51 expression. Candidate compounds were tested for their ability to inhibit glucocorticoid-induced REDD1/FKBP51 expression in human primary/immortalized keratinocytes and in mouse skin. Reporter gene expression, microarray, and chromatin immunoprecipitation were employed to evaluate effect of these inhibitors on the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) signaling.


Bioinformatics analysis unexpectedly identified phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K)/mTOR/Akt inhibitors as a pharmacological class of REDD1/FKBP51 repressors. Selected PI3K/mTOR/Akt inhibitors-Wortmannin (WM), LY294002, AZD8055, and two others indeed blocked REDD1/FKBP51expression in human keratinocytes. PI3K/mTOR/Akt inhibitors also modified global effect of glucocorticoids on trascriptome, shifting it towards therapeutically important transrepression; negatively impacted GR phosphorylation; nuclear translocation; and GR loading on REDD1/FKBP51 gene promoters. Further, topical application of LY294002 together with glucocorticoid fluocinolone acetonide (FA) protected mice against FA-induced proliferative block and skin atrophy but did not alter the anti-inflammatory activity of FA in ear edema test.


Our results built a strong foundation for development of safer GR-targeted therapies for inflammatory skin diseases using combination of glucocorticoids with PI3K/mTOR/Akt inhibitors. FUND: Work is supported by NIH grants R01GM112945, R01AI125366, and HESI-THRIVE foundation.


FKBP51; Glucocorticoid receptor; PI3K/mTOR/Akt inhibitor; REDD1; Skin atrophy; mTOR

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