Skip to main content

Psoriasis and vitamin A

Plasma transport and skin content of retinol, dehydroretinol and carotenoids in adult patients versus healthy controls


The vitamin-A status of 107 patient with psoriasis and 37 healthy controls was investigated. The mean serum level of retinol-binding protein (RBP) was normal in the 79 patients with chronic plaque psoriasis covering 25% or less of the skin surface. In the 28 patients with more extensive plaque lesions or pustular/ erythrodermic psoriasis, the mean serum RBP level was significantly lower than in the controls (P<0.05). The cutaneous concentrations of retinol (vitamin A1), dehydroretinol (vitamin A2) and carotenoids were measured in extracts of saponified shave-biopsy specimens of uninvolved and involved skin from 33 patients with plaque psoriasis. Their retinol values did not differ significantly from those found in control skin (mean, 252 ng/g), whereas the carotenoid levels in both uninvolved and involved skin were 25%–50% lower. In contrast, the dehydroretinol concentration was higher in the patients' involved skin (mean, 237 ng/g) than in their uninvolved skin (94 ng/g) and healthy control skin (70 ng/g; P<0.01). Although the origin of increased dehydroretinol levels in involved psoriatic skin is unknown, similar increments were observed in control epidermis in which proliferation had been induced by tape stripping. In 7 patients treated with oral etretinate (aromatic retinoid) for 2–3 weeks, the median retinol and dehydroretinol levels in involved skin increased by 107% and 212%, respectively; the vitamin-A concentrations in uninvolved skin did not change significantly. Oral treatment with β-carotene/canthaxanthin raised the median carotenoid levels in uninvolved and involved skin by 170% and 610%, respectively, without significantly affecting the vitamin-A composition.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Benoldi D, Manfredi G, Pezzarossa E, Allegra F (1981) Retinol binding protein in normal human skin and in cutaneous disorders. Br J Dermatol 105:659–665

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Budowski P, Gross J (1965) Conversion of carotenoids to 3-dehydroretinol (vitamin A2) in the mouse. Nature 206:1254–1255

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Colton T (1974) Statistics in medicine. Little, Brown and Company, Boston, pp 219–221

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Eckert R, Green H (1984) Cloning of cDNAs specifying vitamin-A-responsive human keratins. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 81:4321–4325

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Fritsch PO, Pohlin G, Längle U, Elias P (1981) Response of epidermal cell proliferation to orally administered aromatic retinoid. J Invest Dermatol 77:287–291

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Fuchs E, Green H (1981) Regulation of terminal differentiation of cultured human keratinocytes by vitamin A. Cell 25:617–625

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Goodwin TW (1980) The biochemistry of the carotenoids, 2nd edn. Chapman and Hall, New York, pp 9–22

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Hoffmann R, Schneider A, Quamo Y (1950) The sex difference in vitamin A metabolism. J Invest Dermatol 15:409–419

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Klein-Szanto AJP, Martin DH, Pine AH (1980) Cutaneous manifestations in rats with advanced vitamin A deficiency. J Cutan Pathol 7:260–270

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Lauharanta J (1981) Vitamin A transport complex during treatment with an oral aromatic retinoid (Ro 10-9359). Acta Derm Venereol (Stockh) 61:264–267

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Lee R, Mathews-Roth MM, Pathak MA, Parrish JA (1975) The detection of carotenoid pigments in human skin. J Invest Dermatol 64:175–177

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Leitner ZA, Moore T (1946) Vitamin A and skin disease. Lancet 2:262–265

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    LeVine MJ, McGilvray N, Baden HP (1980) Effect of therapy on keratin polypeptide profiles of psoriatic epidermis. Arch Dermatol 116:1028–1030

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Michaëlsson G, Vahlquist A, Juhlin L (1977) Serum zinc and retinol-binding protein in acne. Br J Dermatol 96:283–286

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Mier PD, van den Hurk J (1974) Plasma vitamin A levels in the common dermatoses. Br J Dermatol 91:155–159

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Moore T (1957) Vitamin A. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 586–588

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Pinkus H (1951) Examination of the epidermis by the strip method. II. Biometric data on regeneration of the human epidermis. J Invest Dermatol 19:431–446

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Rask L, Anundi H, Böhme J, Eriksson U, Ronne H, Sege K, Peterson PA (1981) Structural and functional studies of vitamin A-binding proteins. Ann NY Acad Sci 359:79–90

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Rollman O, Vahlquist A (1981) Cutaneous vitamin A levels in seborrheic keratosis, actinic keratosis, and basal cell carcinoma. Arch Dermatol Res 270:193–196

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Rollman O, Vahlquist A (1983) Retinoid concentrations in skin, serum and adipose tissue of patients treated with etretinate. Br J Dermatol 109:439–447

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Rollman O, Vahlquist A (1985) Vitamin A in skin and serum: Studies of ichthyosis vulgaris, lichen planus, acne and atopic dermatitis Br J Dermatol (in press)

  22. 22.

    Ray AA (ed) (1982) SAS user's guide: Statistics. SAS Institute, Cary, USA, pp 139–199

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Todesco S, Punzi L, Meani A, Gambari PF, Borsatti A (1981) Retinol-binding protein in rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis Rheum 24:105–106

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Törmä H, Vahlquist A (1984) Vitamin A uptake by human skin in vitro. Arch Dermatol Res 276:390–395

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Vahlquist A (1980) The identification of dehydroretinol (vitamin A2) in human skin. Experientia 36:317–318

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Vahlquist A (1982) Vitamin A in human skin. I. Detection and identification of retinoids in normal epidermis. J Invest Dermatol 79:89–93

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Vahlquist A, Rollman O (1984) Further observations on the pharmacology of retinoids. In: Cunliffe WJ, Miller AJ (eds) Retinoid therapy: A review of clinical and laboratory research. MTP Press, Lancaster, pp 135–143

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Vahlquist A, Sjölund K, Nordén Å, Peterson PA, Stigmar G, Johansson B (1978) Plasma vitamin A transport and visual dark adaptation in diseases of the intestine and liver. Scand J Clin Lab Invest 38:301–308

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Vahlquist A, Michaëlsson G, Juhlin L (1978) Acne treatment with oral zinc and vitamin A: Effects on the serum levels of zinc and retinol binding protein (RBP). Acta Derm Venereol (Stockh) 58:437–442

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Vahlquist A, Berne B, Berne C (1982) Skin content and plasma transport of vitamin A and β-carotene in chronic renal failure. Eur J Clin Invest 12:63–67

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Vahlquist A, Lee JB, Michaëlsson G, Rollman O (1982) Vitamin A in human skin. II. Concentrations of carotene, retinol and dehydroretinol in various components of normal skin. J Invest Dermatol 79:94–97

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Vahlquist A, Lee JB, Michaëlsson G (1982) Darier's disease and vitamin A: Concentrations of retinoids in serum and epidermis of untreated patients. Arch Dermatol 118:389–392

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Weinstein G, Frost P (1968) Abnormal cell proliferation in psoriasis. J Invest Dermatol 50:254–259

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Weinstein G, McCullough JL, Ross P (1984) Cell proliferation in normal epidermis. J Invest Dermatol 82:623–628

    Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Weiss R, Eichner R, Sun T-T (1984) Monoclonal antibody analysis of keratin expression in epidermal diseases: A 48-and 56-kdalton keratin as molecular markers for hyperproliferative keratinocytes. J Cell Biol 98:1397–1406

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. Vahlquist.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rollman, O., Vahlquist, A. Psoriasis and vitamin A. Arch Dermatol Res 278, 17–24 (1985).

Download citation

Key words

  • β-Carotene
  • Canthaxanthin
  • Epidermis
  • Etretinate
  • Hyperproliferation
  • Retinol-binding protein
  • Vitamin A1
  • Vitamin A2