We explored the regulation of filaggrin, cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) expression induced by urban particulate matter (PM) in human keratinocytes. In addition, we investigated the signaling pathways involved in PM-induced effects on COX2/PGE2 and filaggrin. PMs induced increases in COX2 expression and PGE2 production, and decreased filaggrin expression. These effects were attenuated by pretreatment with COX2 inhibitor and PGE2 receptor antagonist, or after transfection with siRNAs of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), gp91phox and p47phox. Furthermore, PM-induced generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and NADPH oxidase activity was attenuated by pretreatment with an AhR antagonist (AhRI) or antioxidants. Moreover, Nox-dependent ROS generation led to phosphorylation of ERK1/2, p38, and JNK, which then activated the downstream molecules NF-κB and AP-1, respectively. In vivo studies in PMs-treated mice showed that AhRI and apocynin (a Nox2 inhibitor) had anti-inflammatory effects by decreasing COX2 and increasing filaggrin expression. Our results reveal for the first time that PMs-induced ROS generation is mediated through the AhR/p47 phox/NADPH oxidase pathway, which in turn activates ERK1/2, p38/NF-κB and JNK/AP-1, and which ultimately induces COX2 expression and filaggrin downregulation. Up-regulated expression of COX2 and production of PGE2 may lead to impairment of skin barrier function.
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