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Chem Biol Interact. 2019 Apr 1;302:61-66. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2019.01.035. Epub 2019 Feb 2.

Ethanol induces skin hyperpigmentation in mice with aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 deficiency.

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Department of Social Medicine, Saga Medical School, Saga, 849-8501, Japan. Electronic address:
Department of Chemistry, Fujita Health University School of Health Sciences, Aichi, 470-1192, Japan.
Department of Social Medicine, Saga Medical School, Saga, 849-8501, Japan.
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, 06520, USA.
Section of Molecular Pharmacology and Toxicology, Laboratory of Membrane Biochemistry and Biophysics, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Department of Dermatology, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO, 80045, USA.


Alcohol induces various cutaneous changes, such as palmar erythema and jaundice. However, alcohol-induced skin hyperpigmentation due to melanin deposition has not been reported. Aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2), one of 19 human ALDH isozymes, metabolizes endogenous and exogenous aldehydes to their respective carboxylic acids. Reduced ALDH2 greatly affects acetaldehyde metabolism, leading to its accumulation in the body after the consumption of alcohol and the consequent development of a wide range of phenotypes. In the present study, we report a novel phenotype manifesting in a mouse model with the altered expression of ALDH2. Aldh2 knockout (Aldh2+/- and Aldh2-/-) and wild-type (Aldh2+/+) mice were fed a standard solid rodent chow and a bottle of ethanol solution at concentrations of 0%, 3%, 10%, or 20% (v/v) for more than 10 weeks. The intensity of their skin pigmentation was evaluated by macroscopic observation. Ethanol-exposed Aldh2+/- and Aldh2-/- mice exhibited dose-dependent skin pigmentation in areas of hairless skin, including the soles of the paws and tail; no such changes were observed in wild-type mice. The intensity of skin pigmentation correlated with the number of Aldh2 alleles that were altered in the mice (i.e., 0, 1 and 2 for Aldh2+/+, Aldh2+/-, Aldh2-/-, respectively). Interestingly, the skin pigmentation changes reversed upon the discontinuation of ethanol. The histological examination of the pigmented skin demonstrated the presence of melanin-like deposits, mainly in the epidermis. In conclusion, we report a novel finding that the intake of ethanol induces skin hyperpigmentation in an ALDH2 activity-dependent manner.


Aldehyde dehydrogenase 2; Ethanol; Hyperpigmentation; Skin

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