Tapinarof Validates the Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor as a Therapeutic Target: A Clinical Review

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



The Journal of allergy and clinical immunology




Aryl hydrocarbon receptor; atopic dermatitis; inflammatory disorders; psoriasis; tapinarof cream


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) is a ligand-dependent transcription factor that has wide-ranging roles, including regulation of inflammation and homeostasis. AhR is not a cell-surface receptor but exists in a cytoplasmic complex that responds to a wide variety of structurally dissimilar endogenous, microbial, and environmental ligands. The ubiquitous expression of AhR, its ability to be activated by a wide range of ligands, and its capacity to act as a master regulator for gene expression and homeostasis make it a promising new therapeutic target. Clinical trials of tapinarof cream have now validated AhR agonism as a therapeutic approach that can deliver significant efficacy for treating inflammatory skin diseases, including psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (AD). Tapinarof cream 1%, is a first-in-class, non-steroidal, topical, AhR agonist with a pharmacokinetic profile that results in localized exposure at sites of disease, avoiding systemic safety concerns, drug interactions, or off-target effects. Psoriasis and AD both involve epidermal inflammation, cellular immune responses, dysregulation of skin barrier protein expression and oxidative stress. Based on the clinical effectiveness of tapinarof cream for treating inflammatory skin diseases, we review how targeting AhR may offer a significant opportunity in other conditions that share key aspects of pathogenesis, including asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, eosinophilic esophagitis, ophthalmic, and nervous system diseases.