Antioxidant/stress response in mouse epidermis following exposure to nitrogen mustard

Gabriella Wahler, Diane E. Heck, Ned D. Heindel, Debra L. Laskin, Jeffrey D. Laskin, Laurie B. Joseph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Nitrogen mustard (NM) is a highly reactive bifunctional alkylating agent that induces inflammation, edema and blistering in skin. An important mechanism mediating the action of NM and related mustards is oxidative stress. In these studies a modified murine patch-test model was used to analyze DNA damage and the antioxidant/stress response following NM exposure in isolated epidermis. NM (20 μmol) was applied to glass microfiber filters affixed to a shaved dorsal region of skin of CD-1 mice. NM caused structural damage to the stratum corneum as reflected by increases in transepidermal water loss and skin hydration. This was coordinated with edema, mast cell degranulation and epidermal hyperplasia. Within 3 h of NM exposure, a 4-fold increase in phosphorylated histone H2AX, a marker of DNA double-stranded breaks, and a 25-fold increase in phosphorylated p53, a DNA damage marker, were observed in the epidermis. This was associated with a 40% increase in 8-oxo-2′-deoxyguanosine modified DNA in the epidermis and a 4-fold increase in 4-hydroxynonenal modified epidermal proteins. At 12 h post NM, there was a 3–75 fold increase in epidermal expression of antioxidant/stress proteins including heme oxygenase-1, thioredoxin reductase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione reductase, heat shock protein 27 and cyclooxygenase 2. These data indicate that NM induces early oxidative epidermal injury in mouse skin leading to an antioxidant/stress response. Agents that enhance this response may be useful in mitigating mustard-induced skin injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104410
JournalExperimental and Molecular Pathology
StatePublished - Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


  • DNA damage
  • Mouse epidermis
  • Oxidative stress
  • Vesicants

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