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J Invest Dermatol. 1989 Mar;92(3):326-32.

Hyaluronate accumulation in human epidermis treated with retinoic acid in skin organ culture.

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Department of Anatomy, University of Kuopio, Finland.


Retinoic acid (RA) has been shown to retard the differentiation of epidermal keratinocytes by several morphologic and biochemical criteria. In this study, the epidermal content and localization of hyaluronate (HA), as well as its synthesis and disappearance in human skin organ culture, were characterized to test the idea that some of the RA influences on epidermal differentiation are associated with keratinocyte HA metabolism. RA stimulated the incorporation of 3H-glucosamine into HA by up to 60% at concentrations between 50 nM and 5 microM, while pulse-chase experiments revealed little change in its disappearance rate from epidermis. After 5 d in culture, the chemically quantified HA was more than doubled in the treated epidermis. The accumulation of HA was substantiated by light and electron microscopy with a specific probe prepared from the HA binding region of cartilage proteoglycan. The staining was particularly enhanced between the upper spinous cell layers, where the terminal differentiation into corneocytes normally takes place. A patchy, discontinuous staining was also seen in stratum granulosum and corneum layers, which are not stained at all in control cultures. The present study demonstrates that RA leads to an accumulation of HA in the superficial layers of epidermis by stimulating its synthesis in keratinocytes. This may account for the delay in terminal differentiation, and the weakened cohesion of the keratinocytes previously observed both in vivo and vitro.

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