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Exp Gerontol. 2000 May;35(3):307-16.

Photoaging of the skin from phenotype to mechanisms.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of Cologne, Joseph-Stelzmann-Str. 9, 50931, Cologne, Germany.


The skin is increasingly exposed to ambient UV-irradiation thus increasing its risk for photooxidative damage with longterm detrimental effects like photoaging, which is characterized by wrinkles, loss of skin tone, and resilience. Photoaged skin displays prominent alterations in the cellular component and the extracellular matrix of the connective tissue with an accumulation of disorganized elastin and its microfibrillar component fibrillin in the deep dermis and a severe loss of interstitial collagens, the major structural proteins of the dermal connective tissue. The unifying pathogenic agents for these changes are UV-generated reactive oxygen species (ROS) that deplete and damage non-enzymatic and enzymatic antioxidant defense systems of the skin. As well as causing permanent genetic changes, ROS activate cytoplasmic signal transduction pathways in resident fibroblasts that are related to growth, differentiation, senescence, and connective tissue degradation. This review focuses on the role of UV-induced ROS in the photodamage of the skin resulting in biochemical and clinical characteristics of photoaging. In addition, the relationship of photoaging to intrinsic aging of the skin will be discussed. A decrease in the overall ROS load by efficient sunscreens or other protective agents may represent promising strategies to prevent or at least minimize ROS induced photoaging.

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