Safer topical treatment for inflammation using 5α-tetrahydrocorticosterone in mouse models

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Graphical abstractUse of topical glucocorticoid for inflammatory skin conditions is limited by systemic and local side-effects. This investigation addressed the hypothesis that topical 5α-tetrahydrocorticosterone (5αTHB, a corticosterone metabolite) inhibits dermal inflammation without affecting processes responsible for skin thinning and impaired wound healing. The topical anti-inflammatory properties of 5αTHB were compared with those of corticosterone in C57Bl/6 male mice with irritant dermatitis induced by croton oil, whereas its effects on angiogenesis, inflammation, and collagen deposition were investigated by subcutaneous sponge implantation. 5αTHB decreased dermal swelling and total cell infiltration associated with dermatitis similarly to corticosterone after 24 h, although at a five fold higher dose, but in contrast did not have any effects after 6 h. Pre-treatment with the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist RU486 attenuated the effect of corticosterone on swelling at 24 h, but not that of 5αTHB. After 24 h 5αTHB reduced myeloperoxidase activity (representative of neutrophil infiltration) to a greater extent than corticosterone. At equipotent anti-inflammatory doses 5αTHB suppressed angiogenesis to a limited extent, unlike corticosterone which substantially decreased angiogenesis compared to vehicle. Furthermore, 5αTHB reduced only endothelial cell recruitment in sponges whereas corticosterone also inhibited smooth muscle cell recruitment and decreased transcripts of angiogenic and inflammatory genes. Strikingly, corticosterone, but not 5αTHB, reduced collagen deposition. However, both 5αTHB and corticosterone attenuated macrophage infiltration into sponges. In conclusion, 5αTHB displays the profile of a safer topical anti-inflammatory compound. With limited effects on angiogenesis and extracellular matrix, it is less likely to impair wound healing or cause skin thinning.

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