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12 January 2021

Enzyme found to treat inflammatory skin conditions

Researchers have found an enzyme that plays a role in inflammatory skin diseases and could be a good target for new treatments for conditions like psoriasis.


Inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis can cause redness, pain, itching and dryness, and can have a major impact on patients quality of life.

In a recent study published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, researchers from King’s College London and the Francis Crick Institute identified an enzyme, CYP1A1, which has a key role in regulating a biological pathway that controls skin inflammation named AHR. If this enzyme is overactive, it impedes the activation of the AHR pathway and by doing so it contributes to skin diseases such as psoriasis

The researchers compared the activity of the CYP1A1 enzyme in cells taken from people with psoriasis to cells taken from healthy people. They found that the CYP1A1 enzyme was significantly more active in the psoriasis samples than in the healthy samples. When the researchers experimentally blocked this enzyme in mice with skin inflammation, they also saw the condition improve.

Clinical trials have shown that activating the AHR pathway can be beneficial in psoriasis, especially for patients who do not qualify for expensive biological treatments and still rely on creams and ointments. However, the way we target the AHR pathway matters as this pathway regulates many physiological processes in the cell which we do not want to shut on or off indiscriminately. An imbalance in the activity levels of CYP1A1 in skin inflammatory conditions, an essential regulator of the AHR pathway, offers an opportunity for specifically targeting this enzyme, to correct the imbalance and restore the beneficial effect of the AHR pathway, minimising the impact on other biological processes.

Paola Di Meglio, Senior Author, Lecturer at King’s College London and formerly a Postdoc Researcher at the Crick

The researchers are continuing their work to understand the impact of CYP1A1 overactivity on skin inflammatory conditions and find the most suitable way to target this enzyme.

In this story

Paola  Di Meglio

Lecturer in Cutaneous Immunology