Retinoids down-regulate the expression of metalloproteinases, cytokines, and other genes involved in cell proliferation and inflammation. Tazarotene (AGN 190168), a retinoic acid receptor (RAR)-specific retinoid, is effective in the treatment of psoriasis, a hyperproliferative and inflammatory skin disease. Because negative regulation of genes appears to be important in the antiproliferative and antiinflammatory action of retinoids, we studied the down-regulation of genes in skin raft cultures by this antipsoriatic retinoid. By subtraction hybridization, we found that migration inhibitory factor-related protein (MRP-8) and skin-derived anti-leukoproteinase (SKALP) are down-regulated by AGN 190168. MRP-8 and SKALP are overexpressed in psoriatic lesions as compared to the normal epidermis, and they are markers of hyperproliferative keratinocyte differentiation. We also show that MRP-8 expression is retinoid inhibitable in cultured keratinocytes induced to differentiate with 10% serum or IFN-gamma, and that MRP-8 is inhibited by RAR but not by retinoid X receptor-specific retinoids in a dose-dependent manner. Finally, MRP-8, SKALP, and the previously characterized differentiation marker, transglutaminase I, are all down-regulated in vivo in psoriatic lesions after treatment with AGN 190168 in comparison to placebo. Taken together, these data suggest that these markers may be down-regulated by tazarotene in psoriasis through direct action on keratinocyte gene expression rather than by an overall tazarotene effect on lesional therapeutic status.