Molecular mechanism of PUVA-induced apoptosis in mouse epidermal cells

Annette Barbara Santamaria, The University of Texas School of Public Health


A combination of psoralens and ultraviolet-A radiation referred to as PUVA, is widely used in the treatment of psoriasis. PUVA therapy is highly effective in killing hyperproliferative cells, but its mechanism of action has not been fully elucidated. Psoralen binds to DNA, and upon photoactivation by UVA, it forms monofunctional adducts and interstrand cross-links. PUVA treatment has been shown to be mutagenic and to produce tumors in animals. In addition, epidemiological studies have reported a 10 to 15 percent increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma in individuals treated chronically with PUVA. However, it remains a treatment for skin disorders such as psoriasis because its benefits outweigh its risks. The widespread use of PUVA therapy and its associated cancer risk requires us to understand the molecular mechanisms by which PUVA induces cell death. Immortalized JB6 mouse epidermal cells, p53−/− mice, and Fas Ligand−/− (gld) mice were used to investigate the molecular mechanism by which PUVA kills cells. Treatment of JB6 cells with 10 μg/ml 8-methoxypsoralen followed by irradiation with 20 kJ/m2 UVA resulted in cell death. The cells exhibited morphological and biochemical characteristics of apoptosis such as chromatin condensation, DNA ladder formation, and TUNEL-positivity. PUVA treatment stabilized and phosphorylated p53 leading to its activation, as measured by nuclear localization and induction of p21Waf/Cip1, a transcriptional target of p53. Subsequent in vivo studies revealed that there was statistically significantly less apoptosis in p53 −/− mice than in p53+/+ mice at 72 hours after PUVA. In addition, immunohistochemical analysis revealed more Fas and FasL expression in p53+/+ mice than in p53−/− mice, suggesting that p53 is required to transcriptionally activate Fas, which in turn causes the cells to undergo apoptosis. Studies with gld mice confirmed a role for Fas/FasL interactions in PUVA-induced apoptosis. There was statistically significantly less apoptosis in gld mice compared with wild-type mice 24, 48, and 72 hours after PUVA. These results demonstrate that PUVA-induced apoptosis in mouse epidermal cells requires p53 and Fas/FasL interactions. These findings may be important for designing effective treatments for diseases such as psoriasis without increasing the patient's risk for skin cancer.

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Recommended Citation

Santamaria, Annette Barbara, "Molecular mechanism of PUVA-induced apoptosis in mouse epidermal cells" (2001). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3027651.