Abstract and Figures

Significance: Chronic exposure to environmental ultraviolet radiation (UVR) plays a key role in both photocarcinogenesis and induction of accelerated skin aging. Although the spatiotemporal consequences of UVR exposure for the composition and architecture of the dermal extracellular matrix (ECM) are well characterized, the pathogenesis of photoaging remains poorly defined. Given the compelling evidence for the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as mediators of photoaging, UVR-exposed human skin may be an accessible model system in which to characterize the role of oxidative damage in both internal and external tissues. Recent advances: Although the cell-mediated degradation of dermal components via UVR-induced expression of ECM proteases has long been identified as an integral part of the photoaging pathway, the relative importance and identity of cellular and extracellular photosensitizers (direct hit and bystanders models, respectively) in initiating this enzymatic activity is unclear. Recently, both age-related protein glycation and relative amino-acid composition have been identified as potential risk factors for photo-ionization and/or photo-sensitization. Here, we propose a selective multi-hit model of photoaging. Critical issues: Bioinformatic analyses can be employed to identify candidate UVR targets/photosensitizers, but the action of UVR on protein structure and/or ROS production should be verified experimentally. Crucially, in the case of biochemically active ECM components such as fibronectin and fibrillin, the downstream effects of photo-degradation on tissue homeostasis remain to be confirmed. Future directions: Both topical antioxidants and inhibitors of detrimental cell signaling may be effective in abrogating the effects of specific UVR-mediated protein degradation in the dermis.
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FORUM REVIEW ARTICLE
Damage to Skin Extracellular Matrix Induced by UV Exposure
Rachel E.B. Watson,
1
Neil K. Gibbs,
1
Christopher E.M. Griffiths,
1
and Michael J. Sherratt
2
Abstract
Significance: Chronic exposure to environmental ultraviolet radiation (UVR) plays a key role in both photo-
carcinogenesis and induction of accelerated skin aging. Although the spatiotemporal consequences of UVR
exposure for the composition and architecture of the dermal extracellular matrix (ECM) are well characterized,
the pathogenesis of photoaging remains poorly defined. Given the compelling evidence for the role of reactive
oxygen species (ROS) as mediators of photoaging, UVR-exposed human skin may be an accessible model system
in which to characterize the role of oxidative damage in both internal and external tissues. Recent Advances:
Although the cell-mediated degradation of dermal components via UVR-induced expression of ECM proteases
has long been identified as an integral part of the photoaging pathway, the relative importance and identity of
cellular and extracellular photosensitizers (direct hit and bystanders models, respectively) in initiating this
enzymatic activity is unclear. Recently, both age-related protein glycation and relative amino-acid composition
have been identified as potential risk factors for photo-ionization and/or photo-sensitization. Here, we propose
a selective multi-hit model of photoaging. Critical Issues: Bioinformatic analyses can be employed to identify
candidate UVR targets/photosensitizers, but the action of UVR on protein structure and/or ROS production
should be verified experimentally. Crucially, in the case of biochemically active ECM components such as
fibronectin and fibrillin, the downstream effects of photo-degradation on tissue homeostasis remain to be
confirmed. Future Directions: Both topical antioxidants and inhibitors of detrimental cell signaling may be
effective in abrogating the effects of specific UVR-mediated protein degradation in the dermis. Antioxid. Redox
Signal. 21, 1063–1077.
Introduction
In humans, exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR)
has significant proven positive benefits, including the cu-
taneous production of vitamin D, and may potentially exert
cardio-protective effects via the synthesis of nitric oxide (37,
58). In contrast, excessive exposure to UVR is associated with
cataract formation in the lens; skin cancer; and premature skin
aging (2, 7, 170). This latter consequence of UVR exposure is
manifested primarily in the cell-poor, yet extracellular matrix
(ECM)-rich, dermis where altered tissue mechanical proper-
ties, resulting from structural and compositional remodeling,
are thought to drive the wrinkling that characterizes chroni-
cally photoaged skin (145, 146, 160, 170). Although many
potential effectors of UVR-mediated dermal matrix remodeling
have been identified, the relative importance of, and crucially
the interactions between, cellular and acellular pathways re-
mains poorly defined (119, 125, 149, 166). This review will
focus on the potential role of ECM proteins as both targets of
UVR and UVR sensitizers with a particular emphasis on the
importance of tissue architecture, protein diversity, and
amino-acid composition as key determinants of differential
tissue remodeling.
Skin Structure and Function
The skin is a complex organ that is composed of three
structurally and functionally disparate tissues. While the
deepest layer of the skin, the fat-rich hypodermis, may be
affected by chronic exposure to UVR, it is the dermis and
1
The Dermatology Centre, Salford Royal Hospital, Institute of Inflammation and Repair, The University of Manchester, Manchester
Academic Health Science Centre, Manchester, United Kingdom.
2
Centre for Tissue Injury and Repair, Institute of Inflammation and Repair, The University of Manchester, Manchester Academic Health
Science Centre, Manchester, United Kingdom.
ANTIOXIDANTS & REDOX SIGNALING
Volume 21, Number 7, 2014
ªMary Ann Liebert, Inc.
DOI: 10.1089/ars.2013.5653
1063
outer epidermis that undergo the most pronounced acute and
chronic remodeling in response to UV irradiation (108, 170).
The epidermis, which varies in thickness between body sites
from less than 100 lm on the forearm and buttock to greater
than 600 lm on the heel, functions as a barrier to both water
loss and pathogen ingress (20, 86, 124). The epidermis is sub-
divided into several regions, beginning with the lowest single
cell layer, the stratum basale, of metabolically active stem cells
and their derived keratinocytes that lie above the dermis (83).
These basal keratinocytes terminally differentiate over a pe-
riod of 4 weeks to form the outermost stratum corneum, which
is composed of metabolically inactive and keratinized
squames that are embedded in a hydrophobic lipid matrix (86,
114). In addition to keratinocytes, the epidermis also contains
smaller numbers of pigment-forming melanocytes, immuno-
logically active Langerhans’ cells and sensory neurons, and
Merkel cells (81, 92).
The interface between the epidermis and the dermis, the
dermal–epidermal junction (DEJ), is thought to interact with
both basal keratinocytes in the epidermis and oxytalan fibers
(elements of the terminal elastic fiber network) on the dermal
side (60, 163). Central to the DEJ is a specialized basement
membrane, rich in laminin-332 and collagen IV, that is char-
acterized by a6b4 integrin-mediated keratinocyte attachments
and by collagen VII anchoring fibrils on the epidermal and
dermal sides, respectively (17, 26, 142). In addition to these
molecular attachments, the topology of the DEJ, which in
young, photoprotected Caucasian skin is characterized by
intercalating dermal and epidermal papillae, may play an
important role in dermal-epidermal attachment and shear-
stress resistance (78, 152). However, most of the mechanical
characteristics of skin are thought to be conferred by the
supporting dermis.
The dermis, which may vary in thickness from 1 mm on the
forearm to 2 mm on the thigh, contains hair follicles, eccrine
and apocrine sweat glands, blood and lymphatic capillaries,
sensory neurons, and a diverse cellular population of resident
fibroblasts and immune cells (73, 76, 82, 84, 115, 126, 133).
Despite this compositional diversity with regard to sub-
structures and cell types, the tissue itself is composed pre-
dominantly of highly stable (half lives of years or decades)
ECM proteins that continue to function largely in the absence
of the damage detection and repair mechanisms which protect
short-lived proteins (half lives of hours or days) within the
intracellular environment (45, 63, 129, 156). Many of these
proteins are thought to perform key mechanical roles: fibrillar
collagens I, III, and V, for example, resist tensile forces; while
negatively charged and, hence, hydrophilic proteoglycans
such as versican and the glycosaminoglycan hyaluronic acid
resist compressive forces. The dermal elastic fiber system,
which is composed primarily of elastin and fibrillin microfi-
brils, confers passive recoil (18, 64, 71). In addition to these
major structural proteins, many ECM components perform
crucial biochemical roles by mediating: matrix–matrix inter-
actions and, hence, assembly (for example, the small leucine-
rich proteoglycans); cell-matrix interactions (as controlled
primarily by adhesive glycoproteins and soluble cytokines);
and matrix homeostasis (as a consequence of matrix me-
talloproteinase [MMP]-driven degradation and inhibition and
transforming growth factor b[TGFb] sequestration) (3, 44, 50,
53, 87, 122). In contrast to internal organs, these molecules and
the cellular components of the dermis and epidermis are
required to resist exposure to potentially damaging electro-
magnetic radiation.
Biological and Clinical Consequences of Exposure
to Ultraviolet Radiation
UVR, which forms only a small component of solar radia-
tion, is conventionally split into high-energy UVC (wave-
length 100–280 nm) and lower-energy UVB (280–315 nm) and
UVA (315–400 nm) wavebands (Fig. 1a). However, while be-
ing biologically highly damaging, UVC radiation is absorbed
by stratospheric ozone and is not, therefore, a component of
terrestrial solar radiation (52). As a consequence, human skin
at the Earth’s surface is exposed to less energetic UVB and
UVA radiation. UVB radiation, which comprises only 5% of
terrestrial UVR, penetrates no further than the papillary der-
mis whilst UVA radiation, which comprises the remaining
95%, may penetrate the whole dermis to reach the sub-
cutaneous fat (4, 31) (Fig. 1b). This exposure has both short-
and long-term impacts on human health.
Positive effects of UVR
Humans, in common with other primates, obtain vitamin D
either through dietary sources or through the UVB/heat-
induced conversion of cutaneous 7-dehydrocholesterol to pre-
vitamin D
3
and then vitamin D
3
in the skin (58). However,
lack of sunlight exposure, particularly at higher latitudes,
when compounded by a diet that is poor in vitamin D, may
contribute to longer-term deficiencies which not only impact
on the structure and function of the growing and mature
skeleton but have also been linked to the development of
disparate forms of cancer, multiple sclerosis, and cardiovas-
cular disease (51, 58, 175). In addition to the beneficial effects
of UVB-mediated vitamin D synthesis, UVA radiation may
liberate bound nitric oxide, which, in turn, may exert a pow-
erful cardioprotective effect (37, 113). Remarkably, when
other known risk and protective factors are accounted for,
mortality within the United Kingdom correlates linearly with
latitude (79). These beneficial effects, both well established
and putative, should be balanced against the profound neg-
ative impacts of excessive UVR exposure.
Negative effects of UVR
In the short term, UVR may induce acute clinical effects,
including skin inflammation (in which vasodilation contrib-
utes to erythema or skin reddening) and immunosuppression
[for in-depth reviews, see Refs. (22, 88)]. Chronically, UVR-
induced epidermal deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage and
consequent mutation of tumor suppressors and oncogenes
initiates nonmelanoma skin cancers and is associated with
melanoma (15, 59, 104, 174). As a consequence of the adverse
effects on health of both low (vitamin D deficiency and re-
duced NO-mediated cardio-protection) and high (principally
skin cancer) UVR exposure, there is ongoing debate on the
risk-benefit relationship of UVR exposure, in relation to the
quantification of optimal UVR exposure for cutaneous vita-
min D synthesis and public health advice on the use of topical
UV filters (sunscreens) (48, 49, 89, 173). Regardless of the
outcomes of this debate, there is a consensus that chronic
exposure to UVR (photoexposure) induces profound changes
in skin structure, which, in turn, manifest as apparent skin
1064 WATSON ET AL.
aging (photoaging) (105, 170). Establishing the main causative
mechanisms of photoaging would impact not only com-
mercially important cosmetic concerns but also attempts to
understand the link between photoaging and skin cancer
(170). In addition, chronically UVR-exposed skin provides an
important human tissue in which the role that oxidative
damage may play in driving systemic pan-species aging is
studied (45).
Skin aging and photoaging
Although there is some commonality between the ap-
pearance of chronological (also known as intrinsic) and UVR-
induced (extrinsic) skin aging, both the severity and speed of
onset of outward manifestations such as wrinkles and tissue
laxity and the nature of the underlying structural remodeling
differ (14, 35, 129). Specifically, intrinsically aged skin, which
is typically evident only at an older age (from the eighth de-
cade onward), remains unblemished but is characterized
macroscopically and functionally by the development of fine
wrinkles and by reduced mechanical compliance and resi-
lience (ability to recoil) (35, 36, 99). Microscopically, both the
epidermis and dermis undergo atrophy, the DEJ becomes less
convoluted, Langerhans’ cells and fibroblast populations are
depleted, and the dermal ECM loses structural oligosaccha-
rides (proteoglycans and hyaluronic acid) and fibrillar colla-
gens (35, 38, 46, 47, 68, 109, 121, 152). Where present, the
effects of extrinsic aging are superimposed on this back-
ground of intrinsic aging.
When rigidly interpreted, the term extrinsic aging refers to
tissue remodeling that may be induced by multiple external
factors, including both UVR exposure and smoking; in prac-
tice, however, the terms photoaged and extrinsically aged
skin are often used synonymously (102, 105). Clinically, se-
verely photoaged skin appears deeply wrinkled and unevenly
pigmented and is both less compliant and less resilient than
photoprotected skin (1, 36, 77, 160, 170). This lack of resilience
is particularly striking given that the photoaged dermis is
characterized not only by the loss of fibrillar collagens and
collagen VII-containing anchoring fibrils at the DEJ but also
by the gain of oligosaccharides (proteoglycans and hyaluronic
acid) and nominally resilient components of the elastic fiber
system (12, 13, 26, 35, 97, 147). Crucially, however, the normal
hierarchy of this latter system (elastin-rich elastic and elaunin
fibers in the reticular dermis and fibrillin-rich oxytalan fibers
in the papillary dermis) is lost in photoaged skin (105). The
process begins with the specific loss of oxytalan fibers (and
their associated components such as fibrillin and fibrulin-5)
from the papillary dermis (65, 162, 163) and ends with the
apparent deposition of elastin and fibrillin-containing mate-
rial (termed solar elastosis) in the reticular dermis (12, 97, 105).
In contrast to intrinsic aging, which is characterized by
the gradual loss of ECM components from the dermis,
any putative photoaging mechanisms should account for
the differential spatiotemporal remodeling of specific ECM
components.
Molecular Targets of UVR
An understanding of photochemistry is based on the
Grotthuss—Draper law which states that ‘‘photon energy
must be absorbed in order to have a subsequent reaction’’
(166). This absorption may directly affect the structure of the
FIG. 1. SSR is primarily composed of penetrating, yet
low-energy, UVA wavelengths. (a) Normalized spectral
outputs of broadband UVB, SSR, and filtered SSR (UVA)
sources. The spectral output of SSR (emitted by a WG320
filtered xenon arc lamp) is composed of UVA and UVB ra-
diation (95.0% and 5.0%, respectively). The effects of UVA
radiation can be investigated by further filtration (WG345) to
remove the majority of the UVB component (UVA: 99.6%,
UVB: 0.4%). Previously, we have characterized the effects of
irradiation with a broadband UVB source (Philips TL-12;
44.3% UVA, 55.3% UVB, and 0.4% UVC) on the structure of
purified collagen I, fibronectin, and fibrillin microfibrils,
while other groups have examined the effects of UVC or
UVC-containing radiation (e.g. germicidal at 254 nm) on the
structure and function of fibrillar collagen (131, 149). (b)
Relative penetration of UVC, UVB, and UVA wavebands
into human skin (in this biopsy from photoprotected buttock,
the epidermis is stained with nuclear fast red and the lower
dermis is demarcated by immunohistochemical staining for
intact fibrillin microfibrils). In most areas of the body, UVC
radiation is unlikely to penetrate into the dermis. In contrast,
solar UVB radiation can influence the structure of the pap-
illary dermis, while solar UVA radiation penetrates
the whole depth of the dermis to reach the underlying
subcutaneous tissue [adapted from Askew (4)]. SSR, solar-
simulated radiation.
SKIN EXTRACELLULAR MATRIX AND UV 1065
target molecule or generate reactive oxygen species (ROS)
(via photosensitization), which, in turn, may damage the
same target molecule or other molecular components (111).
Alternatively, ROS may affect tissue homeostasis via their
influence on cell signaling and phenotype (119). In order,
therefore, to understand the mechanisms that drive photoa-
ging of human skin, it is necessary to identify which molecules
act as UVR absorbers (chromophores), where these molecules
are located (in cellular or intracellular compartments), and
what the downstream molecular consequences of this ab-
sorption are.
UVR chromophores in human skin
By definition, the term chromophore refers solely to the
radiation-absorbing region of a molecule; in practice, how-
ever, UVR-absorbing biological polymers such as DNA are
often referred to as UV chromophores (172). In the case of
DNA, the absorption of UVR produces highly mutagenic
photolesions, such as cyclopyrimidine dimers, in tumor sup-
pressors or oncogenes and results in the initiation of skin
cancer (30). Protection against such events is afforded by
melanin, which is most abundant and most readily inducible
in skin phototypes V and VI (127, 172). Other small molecules
that act as UVR chromophores (and in some cases, as photo-
sensitizers) include urocanic acid, the porphyrins and flavins,
vitamin K and B
6
derivatives, bilirubin, NAD(P)H, and ad-
vanced glycation end products. The reader is referred to ex-
cellent reviews by Young and by Wondrak et al. for detailed
discussions of the identity of these skin chromophores and
their complex absorption characteristics and resultant pho-
tochemistry (166, 172). However, while the most abundant
molecules in human skin are the structural proteins of the
dermis and it is these same components that undergo pro-
found remodeling in UVR-exposed tissue, the role of ECM
proteins as UVR chromophores and sensitizers remains less
well defined.
Proteins as UVR chromophores
After absorbing photon energy, chromophores within
proteins may enter a short-lived, singlet excited state, result-
ing in direct perturbations to molecular structure (111). Al-
ternatively, this singlet state can undergo intersystem,
crossing to a longer lived triplet state that has the potential to
act as an intra-molecular photosensitizer. Such photosensi-
tizers can, in turn, undergo either type I (electron transfer) or
type II (energy transfer) reactions to form radical species (e.g.,
superoxide radical anion) or singlet O
2
(
1
O
2
) (29, 42). Com-
pelling experimental evidence for a link between photo-
damage and protein oxidation was first presented by Sander
et al., who identified a dose-dependent accumulation of
oxidation-induced protein carbonyls in the acutely UVR-
exposed papillary dermis (125). However, the susceptibility of
specific ECM dermal proteins to UVR-mediated degradation
will be determined, in part, by their chromophore content that
may be nonprogrammed (due to post-translational modifi-
cation with other chromophores, including photosensitizers
such as porphyrins, riboflavin, and glycation-derived cross-
links) or programmed (as a consequence of amino-acid com-
position and macro-molecular structure) (111, 150, 166).
There is increasing experimental and theoretical support
for the role played by post-translationally modified proteins
in mediating UVR-induced DNA damage and, hence, cellular
phenotype (165, 167–169). In addition to these intracellular
effects, post-translational modification of ECM proteins such
as fibrillar collagens and elastin (via targeted lysyl oxidase
[LOX]-driven cross-links or age and diabetes-induced glyca-
tion) may influence the mechanical behavior of tissues, in-
cluding skin, lungs, and blood vessels and, hence, cellular
phenotypes (via mechanotransduction pathways) (6, 62, 80,
143, 144, 164). The major structural proteins such as fibrillar
collagens and elastin are not, however, the only targets of
glycation. Less abundant, yet still biologically important ECM
components, including adhesive glycoproteins, elastic fiber-
associated proteins, and basement membrane components,
may also react with glucose (5, 66, 148). The relative suscep-
tibility of different ECM proteins to glycation (and, hence, to
UVR-mediated damage via photosensitization) is likely to
depend on: (i) the availability of free Lys and Arg residues
after enzymatic cross-linking and (ii) cumulative absorbed
UVR dose, as determined by protein architecture within the
dermis, exposure to both glucose and UVR (dependent, in
part, on molecular longevity), and the functional form of the
protein. For example, while both collagen I and tropoelastin
are long lived in human skin, and hence have ample oppor-
tunity to become glycated, their functional macromolecular
structures in mature tissues (monomers assembled into large-
diameter dense fibrils and fibers) ensure that in most cases the
internal constituent proteins of collagen fibrils and elastic fi-
bers will be protected from interstitial glucose and hence from
glycation (71, 120, 140, 155).
Differential glycation of protein species may result from
differences in their free Lys composition. Both the a1 chain of
collagen I (Swiss Prot Accession: Q9UML6) and the precursor
of elastin (tropoelastin: Q6P0L4), for example, contain similar
numbers of Lys residues (38/and 44/1000 residues, respec-
tively) but after LOX-driven cross-linking a1(I), collagen still
contains 25–26 free Lys residues per 1000 compared with only
5–6 for tropoelastin (6). Finally, ECM proteins are unevenly
distributed within the dermis and as a consequence, fibrillin-
microfibril-associated proteins, which form arborizing (and,
hence, low density) oxytalan fibers in the papillary dermis,
could be key targets of glycation-mediated photosensitization
(163).
Although post-translational modifications, macro-molecular
structure, longevity, and architecture may play important
roles in mediating protein susceptibility to UVR, a neglected
area of study is the influence of relative amino-acid compo-
sition on the ability of individual protein species to act as
chromophores.
Amino-acid composition as a determinant
of protein chromophore load
Individual proteins differ not only in their primary struc-
tures (amino-acid sequences) but also in their relative amino-
acid compositions. Of the 20 amino-acid residues that
comprise human proteins, Leu is the most common and Trp is
the least common (*10% and 1%, respectively, of the 19,889
characterized human proteins documented in the Swiss Prot
database: Fig. 2). Furthermore, not all residues absorb the
UVR wavelengths that are present in sunlight; UVB radiation
is absorbed by Cys, Trp, Tyr, and His residues only (10, 34,
111). Of these residues, the susceptibility of Cys, Trp, and Tyr
1066 WATSON ET AL.
to photochemical modification is well established and from
their absorption spectra, we can conclude that Tyr, and to a
much greater extent Trp and Cystine (disulfide bonded Cys),
are likely to be the key mediators of photochemical UVA-
mediated damage to dermal proteins in vivo (27). Therefore,
proteins that are rich in these residues and in Met may be key
targets of photodegradation and indirect
1
O
2
-mediated
photo-oxidation [see Pattison et al. (111) for an in-depth
review]. However, these amino-acid residues are under-
represented in human proteins (Fig. 2), and we have previ-
ously proposed that relative amino-acid composition may be
used to identify dermal ECM proteins or protein families
which are either UVR/ROS resistant (primarily collagens) or
labile (elastic fiber-associated proteins—with the exception
of elastin itself ) (131, 149). By plotting the concentration of
sulfur-containing (Cys and Met) against aromatic (Trp and
Tyr) amino-acid residues, we can establish that this predicted
differential UVR/ROS susceptibility is also evident when
these groups (collagens and elastic fiber components) are
compared with the entire human proteome (Fig. 3).
Experimental evidence for the degradation
of collagens and elastin by UVR
The predicted resistance of fibrillar collagens to UVR can be
tested experimentally. Fibrillar collagens (and in particular,
collagen I) are the most abundant components of human skin
and as a consequence, their susceptibility to in vitro UVR has
been extensively studied. From an initial reading of the liter-
ature, it appears that fibrillar collagens are, in fact, UVR-labile.
Reported UVR-induced structural changes include modifica-
tions to Tyr and Phe residues, altered electrophoretic mobility,
and fragmentation of collagen monomers (23, 57, 61, 67, 94,
96, 98, 116). These structural changes may have functional
consequences impacting collagen mechanical properties,
resistance to protease digestion, thermal stability, triple helix
formation, and fibrillogenesis (24, 25, 28, 43, 91, 93, 95, 98,
116, 135, 136). However, each of these studies employed
UVR sources that emitted some short wavelength UVC ra-
diation (Table 1). Such high energy sources can induce skin
reddening (minimal erythemal dose [MED]) at doses of just
0.01 J/cm
2
(32). In contrast, the MEDs for lower-energy UVB
andUVAradiationthatarepresentinsunlightaremuch
higher: 0.05 and 56.5 J/cm
2
,respectively(39,56).Inorderto
compare the potential biological impact of UVR doses
emitted from the disparate sources used by researchers over
a time span of nearly five decades, we have, where possible,
expressed these UVR doses as MEDs. (55, 74, 85, 131, 159).
From this analysis, it is clear that nonphysiological UVR
wavelengths, and in many cases doses (approximately four
ordersofmagnitudegreaterthantheMED),arecapableof
inducing profound structural and functional remodeling of
fibrillar collagens in vitro. However, when physiologically
attainable wavelengths and doses are used, the evidence for
UVR-induced collagen denaturation is much less compelling
(Table 2). UVA/UVB-rich radiation sources have a minimal
effect on collagen structure and function even when the
doses employed are more than two orders of magnitude
greater than the MEDs of the respective wavebands (67, 90,
91, 131).
In addition to the fibrillar collagens that confer tensile
strength, the mechanical properties of the dermis are also
determined by a complex network of elastin-rich elastic fibers.
Although otherwise biochemically and structurally dissimilar
to the collagen triple helix, the repeating domain structure
of elastin is also largely devoid of UVA-absorbing and
ROS-sensitive Cys, Trp, Tyr, and Met residues (69). When
compared with the extensive literature on UVR/collagen in-
teractions, the effects of UVR on the structure of elastin are
poorly defined, although it has been demonstrated that elas-
tin-derived peptides undergo structural modification after
exposure to very high-dose UVC radiation (300 MED) (137,
138). Therefore, from the experimental evidence, it appears
that the major long-lived structural proteins of the ECM are
likely to be protected from the action of UVR and ROS by their
amino-acid composition.
UVR-mediated degradation of ECM glycoproteins
In addition to an extensive network of collagen fibrils, elastic
fibers, and hydrophilic proteoglycans, the ECM contains
FIG. 2. UVR-susceptible and oxidation-sensitive amino
residues are under-represented in human proteins. In
comparison to the relatively abundant Leu and Ser residues,
human proteins contain fewer UVA/UVB and oxidation-
sensitive amino acids (indicated in black). UVR, ultraviolet
radiation.
SKIN EXTRACELLULAR MATRIX AND UV 1067
abundant structural glycoproteins that play dynamic roles in
organizing and maintaining matrix structure (75). Foremost
among these glycoproteins is fibronectin, a ubiquitous ECM
component, which is present as both high molecular mass
dimers in plasma and functional fibrils in the matrix (101).
These fibrils contain binding sites for matrix components,
including collagens, heparin, and fibronectin itself and cru-
cially also for cell-membrane bound integrins (134). It is via
these RGD (Arg-Gly-Asp) site/integrin interactions that fi-
bronectin exerts influence over cell migration, morphology,
and oncogenic transformation (75, 151). Compared with both
collagen I and tropoelastin, fibronectin is relatively rich in the
UVA chromophores Cys, Trp, and Tyr (0.3%, 2.2%, and 8.5%
respectively). Hence, fibronectin may be a key target of
UVR-mediated degradation in vivo. However, while there is
evidence that human dermal fibroblasts respond to UVA ex-
posure (both in vitro and in vivo) by synthesizing fibronectin,
descriptions of the consequences of UVR exposure on fibro-
nectin structure are, to our knowledge, limited to a study
which we published in 2010 (11, 128, 131). We demonstrated
using both polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and atomic
force microscopy (AFM) that fibronectin could be induced to
aggregate by exposure to relatively low doses of broadband
UVB radiation. In addition, we showed by using AFM that
exposure to broadband UVB radiation altered the molecular
dimensions of discrete fibronectin dimers. Such structural
remodeling (with its attendant risk of cytotoxic amyloid for-
mation) is a common response of diverse polypeptide chains
to oxidation and/or UV irradiation both in vitro and in tissues
such as the lens (100, 141, 158).
Since even small changes in fibronectin structure, induced
by adsorption to hydrophilic or hydrophobic surfaces, for
example, can affect cell adhesion, UVR-mediated fibronectin
denaturation in vivo has, therefore, the potential to profoundly
affect cell phenotype and hence tissue homeostasis (72, 130,
132). We should note, however, that these broadband UVB
radiation-induced changes in fibronectin only became evident
at multiple MEDs (4–10 times) but that this was not the case
for key components of the elastic fiber system such as fibrillin
microfibrils. These assemblies are both UV-chromophore rich
(fibrillin-1 16.4% Cys, Trp, and Tyr content) and highly UVR
susceptible.
Elastic fiber-associated proteins as key targets of UVR
The potential role of cell-derived ECM proteases in medi-
ating dermal remodeling in photo-exposed skin is well es-
tablished. UVR exposure not only up-regulates the expression
of MMPs-1, -2, -3, -7, -9, and -12 (21, 39, 41, 123) but also
promotes a pro-oxidative environment in human skin. In
turn, this protease and ROS-rich environment may cause the
activation of newly synthesized and sequestered MMPs by
enzymatic or oxidative pathways, both of which operate on
a common cysteine switch (8, 19, 117). Collectively, how-
ever, these enzymes are capable of degrading most dermal
ECM components, including fibrillar collagens, elastic fiber
FIG. 3. Elastic fiber-associated
proteins are enriched in UVR and
oxidation-susceptible amino acids.
The majority of human proteins
(19,889 proteins described in the
Swiss Prot database) contain be-
tween 3% and 5% Cys +Met or
Trp +Tyr residues. In contrast, (i)
many elastic fiber proteins, includ-
ing both the heavily disulfide-
bonded calcium-binding epidermal
growth factor-like domain contain-
ing fibrillins, fibulins, and LTBPs
and the biochemically dissimilar
lysyl oxidases (LOX and LOXLs)
and MAGPs, are enriched in Cys,
Met, Trp, or Tyr residues and (ii)
common fibrillar, anchoring, and
network-forming collagens are lar-
gely devoid of these residues.
MAGPs, microfibril-associated gly-
coproteins; LTBPs, latent trans-
forming growth factor b-binding
proteins.
1068 WATSON ET AL.
Table 1. Fibrillar Collagens Are Degraded by High-Dose UVC Radiation
Dose
UVR waveband/source J/cm
2
MED Extraction method/tissue source Structural/functional effect Study
C
4W–Sankyo Electric Co. ND ND Acid soluble from calf skin Loss of structure/reduced fibril formation Miyata et al. (98)
Varian Spectro-polarimeter ND ND Chick tendon fibroblasts Fragmentation of monomeric collagen Hayashi et al. (57)
Eiko Co. low pressure Hg lamp ND ND Human placenta Fragmentation of monomeric collagen Kato et al. (67)
Philips TUV 6W lamp ND ND Acid soluble from rat tail Fragmentation of monomeric collagen Miles et al. (96)
UVP CL-1000 cross-linker ND ND Acid soluble from rat tail tendon Increased stiffness/protease resistance Cornwell et al. (25)
Conrad-Hanovia, Inc. filtered
Xenon lamp 901C-0011
1 100 Acid soluble from rat tail tendon Reduced fibril formation Fujimori et al. (43)
UV Products shortwave UVG-11 lamp 5.3 530 Acid soluble Reduced fibril formation Menter et al. (91)
Philips TUV-30 Hg lamp 16 1600 Acid soluble from rat tail tendon Modification of Tyr and Phe residues Sionkowaska and
Kaminska (135)
Philips TUV-30 mercury lamp 16 1600 Acid soluble from rat tail tendon Loss of structure Metreveli et al. (94)
Philips TUV-30 Hg lamp 32 3200 Acid soluble from rat tail tendon Reduced thermal stability Sionkowska and
Kaminska (136)
UV Products Model R-52 Grid Lamp 102 10,200 Acid soluble from rat tail tendon Fragmentation of monomeric collagen Jariashvili et al. (61)
Spectroline Corp. R-51A lamp, 105 10,500 Acid soluble from rat tail Loss of structure/altered mechanical
properties
Rabotyagova et al. (116)
BC
Conrad-Hanovia, Inc. filtered
Xenon lamp 901C-0011
21.5 430 Acid soluble from rat tail tendon Reduced fibril formation Fujimori et al. (43)
ABC
DRT-230 High pressure Hg lamp ND ND Acid soluble from rat tail tendon Reduced thermal stability Metreveli et al. (95)
DRT-230 High pressure Hg lamp 9 900 (UVC) Rat tail tendon Reduced thermal stability Metreveli et al. (93)
Hanovia UVS 220A lamp 148 (UVB) 2960 (UVB) Salt soluble from calf skin Loss of structure Cooper and Davidson (23)
Hanovia UVS 220A lamp 148 (UVB) 2960 (UVB) Salt and acid soluble from calf skin Impaired gelatin to triple helix transition Cooper and Davidson (24)
Hanovia UVS 220A lamp 148 (UVB) 2960 (UVB) Salt and acid soluble from calf skin Impaired gelatin to triple helix transition Davidson and Cooper (28)
The structure and function (both mechanical and biochemical) of purified fibrillar collagen (predominantly collagen I) is profoundly disrupted by exposure to UVC-containing radiation sources
(emitting primarily 254 nm) and delivering doses many orders of magnitude higher than the predicted MED for UVC-exposed human skin. UVR wavebands: UVC 100–280 nm (predominantly 254 nm);
UVB 280–315 nm; UVA 315–400 nm.
MED, minimal erythemal dose; UVR, ultraviolet radiation; ND, not determined.
1069
constituents, proteoglycans, adhesive glycoproteins, and DEJ
basement membrane components (3, 19, 110). Therefore, it is
difficult to reconcile the concept of cell-derived ECM proteases
as the sole mediators of matrix degradation with the complex
spatial, compositional, and temporal ECM remodeling that
characterizes chronically UV-exposed skin. Hence, while the
suggestion that ECM components may be targets of UVR is
not new, we have additionally proposed that elastic fiber-
associated components in particular, by virtue of their high
UVR-chromophore content, may be important mediators of
dermal remodeling in photoaged tissue (28, 90, 131, 149, 166).
We have demonstrated experimentally that even sub-MED
doses of broadband UVB radiation (20 mJ/cm
2
: 0.4 MED) are
capable of inducing profound changes in fibrillin microfibril
morphology (131). Similar changes in molecular structure,
when arising as a consequence of inherited mutations in the
fibrillin-1 gene, are associated with the life-threatening vas-
cular pathologies that characterize the heritable connective
tissue disorder Marfan Syndrome (70, 118). Hence, the
susceptibility of these disulfide-bonded microfibrils (and po-
tentially of the structurally related fibulins and latent trans-
forming growth factor bbinding proteins [LTBPs]) to
environmentally relevant doses of UVR provides a potentially
selective mechanism for (i) the early photochemical degra-
dation of oxytalan fibers (fibrillin-rich microfibril bundles) in
the papillary dermis and (ii) the subsequent remodeling of the
elastic fiber system in the reticular dermis as a consequence of
microfibril exposure to penetrating UVA radiation. In this
latter case, photochemical degradation of fibrillin microfibrils
is likely to be the triggering event that leads to aberrant TGFb
signaling, the up-regulation of both MMP and tropoelastin
synthesis, the subsequent dysregulation of elastogenesis, and,
Table 2. Fibrillar Collagens Are Largely Resistant to Low-Dose UVA and UVB Radiation
Dose
UVR waveband/source J/cm
2
MED
Extraction method/
tissue source Structural/functional effect Study
A
Toshiba 20W black
light lamp
40 0.7 Collagen IV No effect on electrophoretic
mobility
Kato et al. (67)
Schott WG 345
filtered Xenon arc
623 11 Acid soluble Minimal effect on fibril
formation
Menter et al. (91)
A
FS-36 filtered 3.9 34 Acid soluble
from calf skin
Increased protease
susceptibility
Menter et al. (90)
SSR
Xenon arc 973 262 Acid soluble Minimal effect on fibril
formation
Menter et al. (91)
ABC
Philips TL-12 0.5 (UVB) 10 (UVB) Acid soluble
collagen I
No effect on electrophoretic
mobility
Sherratt et al. (131)
UVR, which is low dose and/or devoid of nonphysiological wavelengths, has no (or very limited) effect on fibrillar collagen structure,
fibrillogenesis, or protease susceptibility. UVR doses are expressed relative to approximate MED equivalents as calculated for the various UV
sources using published skin phototest data (55, 74, 85, 131, 159). All collagens are assumed to be primarily fibrillar (collagen I, III, or V)
unless otherwise stated. UVR wavebands: UVC 100–280 nm (predominantly 254 nm); UVB 280–315 nm; UVA 315–400 nm; SSR 280–400 nm.
SSR, solar-simulated radiation.
FIG. 4. The direct hit and
bystander models of photo-
aging. In the direct hit model,
UVR interacts with intracellular
photosensitizers and induces
the expression of MMPs,
which, in turn, degrade the
ECM. In the bystander model,
the photosensitizer is thought
to be located extracellularly and
some ROS-mediated ECM
degradation is postulated, but
MMPs remain key mediators of
matrix degradation (166). ECM,
extracellular matrix; MMP,
matrix metalloproteinase; ROS,
reactive oxygen species. To see
this illustration in color, the
reader is referred to the web
version of this article at
www.liebertpub.com/ars
1070 WATSON ET AL.
hence, the deposition of elastotic material (solar elastosis) (16,
33, 106, 107, 171).
Mechanisms of Photoaging
The accumulating theoretical and experimental evidence
for the role played by specific protein families in mediating
downstream tissue remodeling leads us to propose a new
model of photoaging that combines and extends the two ex-
isting models (direct hit and bystander) as defined by Won-
drak et al. (166) (Fig. 4).
Direct hit and bystander models of photoaging
Although ECM remodeling is the key structural change in
photoaged skin, existing models of photoaging have focused
primarily on the influence of UVR on cell behavior. In the
direct hit model, UVR is absorbed by intracellular photosen-
sitizers to produce H
2
O
2
or singlet oxygen, which act via
cellular signaling pathways involving the inhibition of
protein-tyrosine phosphatase-j, activation of epidermal
growth factor receptor, stimulation of mitogen-activated and
c-Jun amino terminal kinases, and subsequent transcription of
nuclear transcription complex AP-1 or the expression of in-
terleukins-1a,-1b, and -6 to up-regulate the expression of
ECM-degrading MMPs [for detailed reviews, see Refs. (119,
153, 170)]. By contrast, in the bystander model, the photo-
sensitizer (which may be a glycated protein) is located in the
ECM and liberates ROS, which both degrades ECM proteins
directly and promotes MMP expression and activity (166).
Since these models are not mutually exclusive and in their
present form cannot explain the specific degradation of key
elastic fiber components (fibrillin-1 and fibulin-5) that char-
acterize early photoaging, we propose a new combined model
of photoaging: the selective multi-hit model, in which UVR-
chromophore-rich cellular and extracellular photosensitizers
mediate both direct and bystander effects (Fig. 5) (65, 131, 149,
163).
Selective multi-hit model
Identifying the key intracellular proteins that act as photo-
sensitizers will require a combination of detailed bioinformatic
analysis and experimental investigation. We can, however,
begin to classify extracellular proteins as potential photosensi-
tizers according to their amino-acid composition, susceptibility
to glycation, location in the dermis, and macro-molecular
structure. Hence, fibrillar collagens that are Cys-, Trp-, and Tyr-
poor, resistant to glycation in their fibrillar form, diffusely
distributed throughout the dermis, and present as dense fibrils
and fibril bundles are unlikely to be targets for UVR (139, 157).
Instead, UVR-upregulated MMPs (-1, -2, -3, and -9) may be the
main mediators of fibrillar collagen (I, III, and V) degradation
(19, 39, 41). Nonfibrillar collagens such as microfibrillar colla-
gen VI are also UV-chromophore poor and their predicted lack
of UVR susceptibility, combined with the absence of known
proteases for the assembled form, may underlie the resistance
of collagen VI to photoaging in vivo (103, 154, 161).
In contrast to the UVR-resistant collagens, the proteoglycan
fibromodulin (which modulates collagen fibrillogenesis), the
adhesive glycoproteins thrombospondin-1 and -2 and vi-
tronectin, the basement membrane components (laminin-332,
laminin-311) and perlecan (which will be exposed to relatively
high UVB doses at the DEJ), and crucially, the microfibril-
associated components of the elastic fiber system are potential
UVR chromophores and photosensitizers (4, 9, 54, 131). These
FIG. 5. Selective multi-hit model of photoaging. Incident UVR radiation will interact with both cellular and extracellular
protein chromophores and in doing so, will liberate both ROS and induce expression of MMPs. Oxytalan fibers in the
papillary dermis (which contain fibrillin and potentially fibulins and LTBPs) are likely to be extracellular photosensitizers
whose partial degradation may have profound effects on tissue homeostasis via induction of both further MMPs synthesis
and aberrant TGFbsignaling. In the elastin-rich reticular dermis, microfibril remodeling may, in turn, not only up-regulate
MMP expression and tropoelastin synthesis but also prevent the formation of structurally competent elastic fibers (elasto-
gensis). TGFb, transforming growth factor b. To see this illustration in color, the reader is referred to the web version of this
article at www.liebertpub.com/ars
SKIN EXTRACELLULAR MATRIX AND UV 1071
otherwise biochemically dissimilar elastic fiber components
(fibrillin-1/2, fibulin-1/5, LTBP-1/2, MAGP-1 LOX, and
LOXL-1/2/3) are Cys-, Trp-, and Tyr-rich, located primarily in
the papillary dermis as arborizing microfibrils or on the pe-
riphery of elastic fibers, and, in the case of fibrillin-1, are sus-
ceptible to glycation (5, 71). We suggest, therefore, that UVR
will interact with multiple UVR-chromophore-rich proteins in
both the extracellular and intracellular environments to induce
direct, oxidative, and enzymatic matrix remodeling.
Conclusions
Although the skin undergoes profound architectural and
functional remodeling with chronic UVR exposure, the
causative mechanisms remain poorly defined. Given the in-
creasing evidence for the role of both intra- and extra-cellular
photosensitizers in mediating the production of ROS and
hence of oxidative damage and aberrant cell signaling, we
propose a new selective hit model of photoaging in which
proteins that are either readily glycated or which are rich in
Cys, Trp, and Tyr act as cutaneous chromophores. Human
skin, and in particular UVR-exposed skin, is an ideal model
system in which to study aging of less accessible connective
tissues, including blood vessels and lungs. The age-related
pathological remodeling that is associated with the accumu-
lation of damage by long-lived cellular components (DNA)
and ECM proteins in these tissues is associated with the action
of both glucose and ROS. Hence, identifying the key targets of
age-related modifications (such as elastic fiber components) is
an important step in understanding and hence ameliorating
and repairing the effects of aging.
Acknowledgments
This work was supported, in part, by a program grant
awarded to the authors by Alliance Boots, Nottingham, Uni-
ted Kingdom. In addition M.J.S., R.E.B.W. and C.E.M.G. are in
receipt of Medical Research Council UK funding and
C.E.M.G. is an NIHR Senior Investigator. We have also car-
ried out independent commercial studies funded by Bio-
Minerals NV; Croda Chemicals Europe Limited; Degussa AG;
Kao Corporation; L’Ore
´al Recherche; Oriflame GTC Limited;
Proctor & Gamble Technical Centers; and Unilever R&D
Colworth. However, no commercial organization exerted
editorial control over the contents of this article.
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Address correspondence to:
Dr. Michael John Sherratt
Centre for Tissue Injury and Repair
Institute of Inflammation and Repair
The University of Manchester
Manchester Academic Health Science Centre
Manchester M13 9PT
United Kingdom
E-mail: michael.sherratt@manchester.ac.uk
Date of first submission to ARS Central, September 28, 2013;
date of acceptance, October 13, 2013.
Abbreviations Used
AFM ¼atomic force microscope/microscopy
DEJ ¼dermal–epidermal junction
DNA ¼deoxyribonucleic acid
ECM ¼extracellular matrix
LTBP ¼latent transforming growth factor b-binding
protein
LOX ¼lysyl oxidase
LOXL ¼lysyl oxidase like
MAGP ¼microfibril-associated glycoprotein
MED ¼minimal erythemal dose
MMP ¼matrix metalloproteinase
NAD(P)H ¼nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide
phosphate
ROS ¼reactive oxygen species
SSR ¼solar-simulated radiation
TGFb¼transforming growth factor b
UVR ¼ultraviolet radiation
UVA/B/C ¼ultraviolet A/B/C
SKIN EXTRACELLULAR MATRIX AND UV 1077
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... UV irradiation is the main external factor that causes skin aging and wrinkle formation [8,9]. Previous research showed that irradiating cells with UV light destroyed their morphology and induced apoptosis, which influenced extracellular matrix (ECM) production and secretion, leading to cellular malfunction [10]. ...
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Ultraviolet-A (UVA) exposure is a major cause of skin aging and can induce oxidative damage and accelerate skin wrinkling. Many natural polysaccharides exhibit a UV protective effect. In research on Pholiota nameko polysaccharides (PNPs), a natural macromolecular polysaccharide (4.4–333.487 kDa), studies have shown that PNPs can significantly decrease elastase activity to protect against UVA-induced aging in Hs68 human dermal fibroblasts. Cellular experiments in the present study indicated that PNPs can protect against UVA-induced oxidative damage in Hs68 cells by inhibiting the production of reactive oxygen species. Furthermore, PNPs significantly attenuated UVA-induced cell aging by decreasing the protein expression of matrix metalloproteinase 1, 3, and 9. Pretreatment of Hs68 cells with PNP-40, PNP-60, and PNP-80 before UVA irradiation increased protein expression of tissue inhibitor metalloproteinase 1 by 41%, 42%, and 56% relative to untreated cells. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that PNPs are a natural resource with potentially beneficial effects in protecting against UVA-induced skin aging.
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Background Several of the characteristic clinical features of photoaged skin, including wrinkling, are thought to be dependent on changes in the dermal matrix brought about by chronic sun exposure. Such changes include reductions in collagens I, III and VII, an increase in elastotic material in the reticular dermis and a marked reduction in the microfibrillar glycoprotein fibrillin. Objectives To examine whether type VI collagen, a microfibrillar collagen necessary for cell–cell and cell–matrix communication, is affected by the photoageing process. Methods Six healthy volunteers with moderate to severe photoageing were enrolled into the study. Immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization histochemistry were used to examine the levels of type VI collagen in photoprotected and photoaged sites. Results In photoprotected skin, type VI collagen was concentrated in the papillary dermis immediately below the dermal–epidermal junction, around blood vessels, hair follicles and glandular structures. The distribution of type VI collagen was unchanged in photoaged skin, although we observed an increase in the abundance of the α3 chain of collagen VI in the upper papillary dermis, at its junction with the dermal–epidermal junction (P < 0·05). No alterations were observed for any α chain at the mRNA level. Conclusions These studies suggest that chronic sun exposure (photoageing) has little or no effect on either the distribution, abundance or levels of expression of type VI collagen in human skin. Thus, type VI collagen, unlike other matrix components so far studied, appears to be relatively unaffected by the photoageing process.