Topical hypochlorous acid (HOCl) blocks inflammatory gene expression and tumorigenic progression in UV-exposed SKH-1 high risk mouse skin

Jana Jandova, Jeremy Snell, Anh Hua, Sally Dickinson, Jocelyn Fimbres, Georg T. Wondrak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Hypochlorous acid (HOCl) is the active oxidizing principle underlying drinking water disinfection, also delivered by numerous skin disinfectants and released by standard swimming pool chemicals used on a global scale, a topic of particular relevance in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, the cutaneous consequences of human exposure to HOCl remain largely unknown, posing a major public health concern. Here, for the first time, we have profiled the HOCl-induced stress response in reconstructed human epidermis and SKH-1 hairless mouse skin. In addition, we have investigated the molecular consequences of solar simulated ultraviolet (UV) radiation and HOCl combinations, a procedure mimicking co-exposure experienced for example by recreational swimmers exposed to both HOCl (pool disinfectant) and UV (solar radiation). First, gene expression elicited by acute topical HOCl exposure was profiled in organotypic human reconstructed epidermis. Next, co-exposure studies (combining topical HOCl and UV) performed in SKH-1 hairless mouse skin revealed that the HOCl-induced cutaneous stress response blocks redox and inflammatory gene expression elicited by subsequent acute UV exposure (Nos2, Ptgs2, Hmox1, Srxn1), a finding consistent with emerging clinical evidence in support of a therapeutic role of topical HOCl formulations for the suppression of inflammatory skin conditions (e.g. atopic dermatitis, psoriasis). Likewise, in AP-1 transgenic SKH-1 luciferase-reporter mice, topical HOCl suppressed UV-induced inflammatory signaling assessed by bioluminescent imaging and gene expression analysis. In the SKH-1 high-risk mouse model of UV-induced human keratinocytic skin cancer, topical HOCl blocked tumorigenic progression and inflammatory gene expression (Ptgs2, Il19, Tlr4), confirmed by immunohistochemical analysis including 3-chloro-tyrosine-epitopes. These data illuminate the molecular consequences of HOCl-exposure in cutaneous organotypic and murine models assessing inflammatory gene expression and modulation of UV-induced carcinogenesis. If translatable to human skin these observations provide novel insights on molecular consequences of chlorination stress relevant to environmental exposure and therapeutic intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102042
JournalRedox Biology
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Hypochlorous acid
  • Inflammation
  • Oxidative stress
  • Pathway-focused gene expression profiling
  • Skin cancer
  • Solar UV radiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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