2000 BR J DERMATOL. British Journal of Dermatology 2000 ;142 (2):226-233
R. Stern, Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0506 EML: [email protected]

Topical hyaluronidase decreases hyaluronic acid and CD44 in human skin and in reconstituted human epidermis: Evidence that hyaluronidase can permeate the stratum corneum

Hyaluronic acid (HA), a high molecular weight glycosaminoglycan of the extracellular matrix involved in growth, inflammation and wound healing, also contributes to the hydration and plastic properties of skin. Several drug and cosmetic formulations contain HA. We have initiated investigations that explore whether it is possible, by topical application, to modulate endogenous HA levels in skin. We developed a model epidermal culture system that exhibited a differentiated stratum corneum, and expressed HA and the HA receptor CD44, in a pattern similar to that observed in intact skin. Such in vitro skin equivalents are useful models for investigating the effect of topical drugs. HA and bacterial hyaluronidase were applied to the in vitro skin equivalent and to human skin. Their effects on endogenous HA and CD44 expression were examined using histochemical analysis. Topical HA treatment had no significant effect on HA or CD44 expression in either system. However, hyaluronidase decreased HA and CD44 expression in a dose-dependent manner in both the epidermal culture system and in skin. Apparently, HA is not able to permeate the epidermal culture system or human skin to a significant degree, but bacterial hyaluronidase does permeate both human skin and the culture system, depleting HA and decreasing CD44 expression. These effects were more prominent in the dermal than in the epidermal layers, suggesting that marked differences in HA metabolism exist in these two skin compartments. The ability of hyaluronidase to permeate the stratum corneum suggests that topical application may, additionally, be useful as a clinical modality.