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J Invest Dermatol. 2003 Jun;120(6):1016-22.

The importance of cationic amino acid transporter expression in human skin.

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  • 1Research Group Immunobiology, Biomedical Research Center, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany.


Inducible nitric oxide synthase and arginase activities are acknowledged as important players in human skin epidermal function. For proper enzyme function the substrate availability of L-arginine for both enzymes and thus its transport across the cell membrane via the y+-system (also named cationic amino acid transporters) is critical. Here, we examine the expression of cationic amino acid transporters and their functional role in modulating inducible nitric oxide synthase and arginase activities in human skin and primary keratinocytes, fibroblasts and endothelial cells as well as their impact on keratinocyte proliferation. Skin biopsies were found to express constitutively both cationic amino acid transporter-1 and cationic amino acid transporter-2 mRNA, an expression pattern known to occur in hepatocytes and muscle cells only. To determine the cellular components expressing cationic amino acid transporter, we analyzed the expression patterns in the different human skin cell types in vitro, i.e., in fibroblasts, dermal endothelial cells, and keratinocytes as well as in the HaCaT cell line. An ubiquitous cationic amino acid transporter-1 mRNA expression was found in all cells, whereas constitutive cationic amino acid transporter-2 mRNA expression occurs in resident keratinocytes and dermal endothelial cells only. De novo induction of cationic amino acid transporter-2 and inducible nitric oxide synthase by proinflammatory cytokines was seen in fibroblasts and HaCaT. Competitive inhibition of the cationic amino acid transporter-mediated L-arginine transport by culturing primary human keratinocytes in the presence of increased L-lysine concentration led to decreased inducible nitric oxide synthase and arginase activities with a concomitant significant decrease in keratinocyte proliferation. In summary, our results demonstrate that human keratinocytes constitutively express cationic amino acid transporters 1 and 2 and that cationic amino acid transporter mediated L-arginine influx, is essential for both inducible nitric oxide synthase and arginase enzyme activities, which in turn modulate proliferation and differentiation of human epidermal skin cells.

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