Changes in photo-aged human skin following topical application of all-trans retinoic acid

Dean S. Rosenthal, Dennis R. Roop, Carol A. Huff, Jonathan S. Weiss, Charles N. Ellis, Ted Hamilton, John J. Voorhees, Stuart H. Yuspa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Although topical applications of retinoids on rodents and humans have been shown to cause epidermal hyperplasia, a detailed study of the influence of retinoids on epidermal differentiation in vivo has not been performed. In order to assess the pharmacologic effects of chronic topical tretinoin application used to improve the appearance of patients with photoaged skin, cutaneous biopsies from 25 patients in a controlled clinical study were examined histologically and immunocytochemically. Chronic application of tretinoin causes epidermal thickening (25 of 25 samples), stratum granulosum thickening (15 of 25), parakeratosis (13 of 25), a marked increase in the number of cell layers expressing epidermal transglutaminase (13 of 25), and focal expression of two keratins, K6 (12 of 25) and K13 (8 of 25), not normally expressed in the epidermis. The morphologic changes correlated with immunohistochemical abnormalities; neither of these correlated with the subjective cosmetic response. Three major epidermal differentiation products, keratins Kl, K10, and K14 were not altered, within the limits of the methods used. Thus, chronic topical tretinoin reprograms some, but not all, aspects of human epidermal differentiation in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)510-515
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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