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J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Dec;115(6):1054-8.

Decrease in epidermal CD44 expression as a potential mechanism for abnormal hyaluronate accumulation in superficial dermis in lichen sclerosus et atrophicus.

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Department of Dermatology, DHURDV, University Hospital of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.


CD44 is a polymorphic integral membrane glycoprotein that serves as the principal cell surface receptor for hyaluronate, the major component of the extracellular matrix. CD44 is abundantly found in the skin and functions as a cell adhesion molecule. In a recent study we have observed a massive dermal accumulation of hyaluronate as a result of the in vivo selective suppression of CD44 in keratinocytes in mice expressing a keratin 5 promoter-driven CD44 anti-sense transgene. As the histologic features of the dorsal skin of these transgenic mice display some similarities to those of the skin lesions of lichen sclerosus et atrophicus, we explored the nature of the material accumulated in the dermis of genital and extragenital lesions of 14 patients with lichen sclerosus et atrophicus by Alcian Blue and human CD44 receptor globulin stainings, as well as the epidermal expression of CD44 protein and mRNA by immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. In this study we provide evidence that hyaluronate is accumulated in the superficial dermis of lichen sclerosus et atrophicus lesions, in particular by the use of human CD44 receptor globulin staining, which binds specifically to hyaluronate. In addition we show that the protein and mRNA expression of CD44 in the epidermis of the involved lichen sclerosus et atrophicus skin from genital and extragenital areas is significantly decreased, and in some cases completely lost. In contrast, keratinocyte CD44 expression was un-altered in the skin lesions of lupus erythematosus, scleroderma and reticular erythematous mucinosis, despite the presence of a mucinous material in the dermis. These results suggest that a decrease in CD44 in the keratinocytes may be correlated with an abnormal dermal accumulation of hyaluronate in the lesions of lichen sclerosus et atrophicus, and may play a pathogenetic role in this disease. J Invest Dermatol 115:1054-1058 2000.

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