The Henna pigment Lawsone activates the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor and impacts skin homeostasis

Laura Lozza, Pedro Moura-Alves, Teresa Domaszewska, Carolina Lage Crespo, Ioana Streata, Annika Kreuchwig, Andreas Puyskens, Marina Bechtle, Marion Klemm, Ulrike Zedler, Bogdan Silviu Ungureanu, Ute Guhlich-Bornhof, Anne Britta Koehler, Manuela Stäber, Hans Joachim Mollenkopf, Robert Hurwitz, Jens Furkert, Gerd Krause, January Weiner, António JacintoIoana Mihai, Maria Leite-de-Moraes, Frank Siebenhaar, Marcus Maurer, Stefan H.E. Kaufmann

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11 Citations (Scopus)
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As a first host barrier, the skin is constantly exposed to environmental insults that perturb its integrity. Tight regulation of skin homeostasis is largely controlled by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). Here, we demonstrate that Henna and its major pigment, the naphthoquinone Lawsone activate AhR, both in vitro and in vivo. In human keratinocytes and epidermis equivalents, Lawsone exposure enhances the production of late epidermal proteins, impacts keratinocyte differentiation and proliferation, and regulates skin inflammation. To determine the potential use of Lawsone for therapeutic application, we harnessed human, murine and zebrafish models. In skin regeneration models, Lawsone interferes with physiological tissue regeneration and inhibits wound healing. Conversely, in a human acute dermatitis model, topical application of a Lawsone-containing cream ameliorates skin irritation. Altogether, our study reveals how a widely used natural plant pigment is sensed by the host receptor AhR, and how the physiopathological context determines beneficial and detrimental outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10878
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2019


  • AHR
  • 2,3,7,8


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