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J Invest Dermatol. 1991 Jun;96(6):968-74.

Patterns of glycosaminoglycan/proteoglycan immunostaining in human skin during aging.

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Department of Biology, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106.


Proteoglycans and their component glycosaminoglycans are involved in such cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions as cell adhesion and migration, processes that are essential for embryonic and fetal development. As definitive organs such as skin emerge, structurally different proteoglycans partition into highly defined compartments. In skin, these compartments correspond to morphologically and functionally distinct layers. However, during the normal aging process, the relative amounts of structurally distinct proteoglycans apparently varies independently in each of these layers. This was demonstrated, in an indirect immunocytochemical study, through the use of monoclonal antibodies that detect structurally distinct domains in glycosaminoglycan chains of proteoglycans. Using samples of normal human skin obtained from individuals ranging in age from 20 weeks of gestation to 98 years of age, we determined that a common distribution pattern existed in skin. The epidermis contained chondroitin 4- and keratan sulfates, the basal lamina was the only layer that contained chondroitin 6-sulfate, the papillary and reticular dermis contained principally dermatan sulfate. In addition, antibodies that recognize native domains in chondroitin sulfates identified proteoglycan subsets that partitioned into distinct layers. An important new finding was that the relative amounts of specific types of glycosaminoglycans varied in an age- and layer-dependent manner. In the epidermis there was a notable increase in keratan sulfate beginning at age 50. Chondroitin 6-sulfate, found principally in the basal lamina, decreased after age 60. In the papillary dermis, the amount of dermatan sulfate increased after age 50, whereas the amount of novel chondroitin sulfate epitope, detected by antibody 4C3, decreased with age. Thus, age-related changes in proteoglycan distribution exist and correlate with morphologic and functional changes that occur in the intrinsic process of aging in human skin.

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