Keratinocyte proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis-differential mechanisms of regulation by curcumin, EGCG and apigenin

Author(s): Balasubramanian S, Eckert RL


We have proposed that it is important to examine the impact of chemopreventive agents on the function of normal human epidermal keratinocytes since these cells comprise the barrier that protects the body from a range of environmental insults. In this context, it is widely appreciated that cancer may be retarded by consumption or topical application of naturally occurring food-derived chemopreventive agents. Our studies show that (−)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a green tea-derived polyphenol, acts to enhance the differentiation of normal human keratinocytes as evidenced by its ability to increase involucrin (hINV), transglutaminase type 1 (TG1) and caspase-14 gene expression. EGCG also stimulates keratinocyte morphological differentiation. These actions of EGCG are mediated via activation of a nPKC, Ras, MEKK1, MEK3, p38δ-ERK1/2 signaling cascade which leads to increased activator protein 1 (AP1) and CAATT enhancer binding protein (C/EBP) transcription factor expression, increased binding of these factors to DNA, and increased gene transcription. In contrast, apigenin, a dietary flavonoid derived from plants and vegetables, and curcumin, an agent derived from turmeric, inhibit differentiation by suppressing MAPK signal transduction and reducing API transcription factor level. Curcumin also acts to enhance apoptosis, although EGCG and apigenin do not stimulate apoptosis. In addition, all of these agents inhibit keratinocyte proliferation. These findings indicate that each of these diet-derived chemopreventive agents has a profound impact on normal human keratinocyte function and that they operate via distinct and sometimes opposing mechanisms. However, all are expected to act as chemopreventive agents.

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