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J Invest Dermatol. 2001 May;116(5):778-84.

Retinoic acid upregulates the plasminogen activator system in human epidermal keratinocytes.

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Department of Dermatology, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit√§t, M√ľnchen, Germany.


The activation of the proteolytic plasminogen activator system is important for the re-epithelialization of skin wounds. Keratinocytes synthesize and secrete the urokinase-type plasminogen activator, which binds to its specific receptor on keratinocytes. Receptor-bound urokinase-type plasminogen activator efficiently activates cell surface bound plasminogen. This results in pericellular proteolysis, which facilitates keratinocyte migration. Urokinase-type plasminogen activator activity is specifically controlled by plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 and -2. As retinoids have been reported to accelerate epithelialization of skin wounds in animal studies and clinical settings, we investigated the effects of all-trans retinoic acid on the plasminogen activator system in human epidermal keratinocytes. As tested in a chromogenic plasminogen activation assay, incubation with 10 microM all-trans retinoic acid caused a marked induction of cell-associated plasminogen activity after 24 h, and this induction was blocked by neutralizing anti-urokinase-type plasminogen activator antibodies, but not anti-tissue-type plasminogen activator antibodies. All-trans retinoic acid lead to a strong increase in urokinase-type plasminogen activator (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor cell surface expression (flow cytometry) after 24 h. At this time-point, tissue-type plasminogen activator and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 and -2 proteins were not or only slightly increased. Northern blot analyses revealed that all-trans retinoic acid caused an early and short-lived increase of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, but a prolonged induction of urokinase-type plasminogen activator and urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor mRNA levels. Collectively, these data suggest that all-trans retinoic acid activates the plasminogen activator system in human epidermal keratinocytes by differentially regulating activating and inhibiting components. The activation of the plasminogen activator system may be one mechanism by which all-trans retinoic acid exerts beneficial effects in cutaneous wound healing.

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