Interleukins 4 and 13 drive lipid abnormalities in skin cells through regulation of sex steroid hormone synthesis

Chenlu Zhang, Mahendran Chinnappan, Courtney A. Prestwood, Marshall Edwards, Methinee Artami, Bonne M. Thompson, Kaitlyn M. Eckert, Goncalo Vale, Christos C. Zouboulis, Jeffrey G. McDonald, Tamia A. Harris-Tryon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic inflammatory skin disease characterized by skin dryness, inflammation, and itch. A major hallmark of AD is an elevation of the immune cytokines IL-4 and IL-13. These cytokines lead to skin barrier disruption and lipid abnormalities in AD, yet the underlying mechanisms are unclear. Sebaceous glands are specialized sebum-producing epithelial cells that promote skin barrier function by releasing lipids and antimicrobial proteins to the skin surface. Here, we show that in AD, IL-4 and IL-13 stimulate the expression of 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (HSD3B1), a key rate-limiting enzyme in sex steroid hormone synthesis, predominantly expressed by sebaceous glands in human skin. HSD3B1 enhances androgen production in sebocytes, and IL-4 and IL-13 drive lipid abnormalities in human sebocytes and keratinocytes through HSD3B1. Consistent with our findings in cells, HSD3B1 expression is elevated in the skin of AD patients and can be restored by treatment with the IL-4Rα monoclonal antibody, Dupilumab. Androgens are also elevated in a mouse model of AD, though the mechanism in mice remains unclear. Our findings illuminate a connection between type 2 immunity and sex steroid hormone synthesis in the skin and suggest that abnormalities in sex steroid hormone synthesis may underlie the disrupted skin barrier in AD. Furthermore, targeting sex steroid hormone synthesis pathways may be a therapeutic avenue to restoring normal skin barrier function in AD patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2100749118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number38
StatePublished - Sep 21 2021


  • Androgens
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Dupilumab
  • Sebaceous glands
  • Skin lipids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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