Skin is constantly exposed to environmental insults, including toxic chemicals and oxidative stress. These insults often provoke perturbation of epidermal homeostasis and lead to characteristic skin diseases. AHR (aryl hydrocarbon receptor) and NRF2 (nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2) are transcription factors that induce a battery of cytoprotective genes encoding detoxication and antioxidant enzymes in response to environmental insults. In addition to their basic functions as key regulators of xenobiotic and oxidant detoxification, recent investigations revealed that AHR and NRF2 also play critical roles in the maintenance of skin homeostasis. In fact, specific disruption of AHR function in the skin has been found to be associated with the pathogenesis of various skin diseases, most prevalently atopic dermatitis (AD). In this review, current knowledge on the roles that AHR and NRF2 play in epidermal homeostasis was summarized. Functional annotations of genetic variants, both regulatory and nonsynonymous SNPs, identified in the AHR and NRF2 loci in the human genome were also summarized. Finally, the possibility that AHR and NRF2 serve as therapeutic targets of AD was assessed.
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