Nrf transcription factors in keratinocytes are essential for skin tumor prevention but not for wound healing

Ulrich Auf Dem Keller, Marcel Huber, Tobias A. Beyer, Angelika Kümin, Christina Siemes, Susanne Braun, Philippe Bugnon, Varvara Mitropoulos, Delinda A. Johnson, Jeffrey A. Johnson, Daniel Hohl, Sabine Werner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The Nrf2 transcription factor is a key player in the cellular stress response through its regulation of cytoprotective genes. In this study we determined the role of Nrf2-mediated gene expression in keratinocytes for skin development, wound repair, and skin carcinogenesis. To overcome compensation by the related Nrf1 and Nrf3 proteins, we expressed a dominant-negative Nrf2 mutant (dnNrf2) in the epidermis of transgenic mice. The functionality of the transgene product was verified in vivo using mice doubly transgenic for dnNrf2 and an Nrf2-responsive reporter gene. Surprisingly, no abnormalities of the epidermis were observed in dnNrf2-transgenic mice, and even full-thickness skin wounds healed normally. However, the onset, incidence, and multiplicity of chemically induced skin papillomas were strikingly enhanced, whereas the progression to squamous cell carcinomas was unaltered. We provide evidence that the enhanced tumorigenesis results from reduced basal expression of cytoprotective Nrf target genes, leading to accumulation of oxidative damage and reduced carcinogen detoxification. Our results reveal a crucial role of Nrf-mediated gene expression in keratinocytes in the prevention of skin tumors and suggest that activation of Nrf2 in keratinocytes is a promising strategy to prevent carcinogenesis of this highly exposed organ.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biology
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)3773-3784
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Nrf transcription factors in keratinocytes are essential for skin tumor prevention but not for wound healing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this