Sexual Dimorphism in Response to an NRF2 Inducer in a Model for Pachyonychia Congenita

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Sex is an influential factor regarding pathophysiology and therapeutic response in human disease. Pachyonychia congenita is caused by mutations in keratin genes and typified by dystrophic lesions affecting nails, glands, oral mucosa, and palmar-plantar epidermis. Painful palmar-plantar keratoderma (PPK) severely impairs mobility in pachyonychia congenita. Mice genetically null for keratin 16 (Krt16), one of the genes mutated in pachyonychia congenita, develop pachyonychia congenita-like PPK. In male Krt16–/– mice, oxidative stress associated with impaired glutathione synthesis and nuclear factor erythroid-derived 2 related factor 2 (NRF2)-dependent gene expression precedes PPK onset, which can be prevented by topical sulforaphane-mediated activation of NRF2. We report here that sulforaphane treatment fails to activate NRF2 and prevent PPK in female Krt16–/– mice despite a similar set of molecular circumstances. Follow-up studies reveal a temporal shift in PPK onset in Krt16–/– females, coinciding with sex-specific fluctuations in footpad skin glutathione levels. Dual treatment with sulforaphane and diarylpropionitrile, an estrogen receptor beta selective agonist, results in NRF2 activation, normalization of glutathione levels, and prevention of PPK in female Krt16–/– mice. These findings point to a sex difference in NRF2 responsiveness that needs be considered when exploring NRF2 as a therapeutic target in skin disorders.




Kerns, M. L., Hakim, J. M. C., Zieman, A., Lu, R. G., & Coulombe, P. A. (2018). Sexual Dimorphism in Response to an NRF2 Inducer in a Model for Pachyonychia Congenita. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 138(5), 1094–1100.

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