[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Certain skin disorders, such as contact dermatitis and chronic urticaria, are characterized by inflammation involving mast cells and worsen by stress. The underlying mechanism of this effect, however, is not known. The skin appears to have the equivalent of a hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, including local expression of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and its receptors (CRH-R). We have reported that acute stress and intradermal administration of CRH stimulate skin mast cells and increase vascular permeability through CRH-R1 activation. In this study, we investigated the expression of CRH-R1, the main CRH-R subtype in human skin, and the mast cell related gene histidine decarboxylase (HDC), which regulates the production of histamine, in normal and pathological skin biopsies. Quantitative real time PCR revealed that chronic urticaria expresses high levels of CRH-R1 and HDC as compared to normal foreskin, breast skin and cultured human keratinocytes. The lichen simplex samples had high expression of CRH-R1, but low HDC. These results implicate CRH-R in chronic urticaria, which is often exacerbated by stress.