Scarless fetal skin wound healing is a paradigm for ideal skin repair and is dependent on peripheral nerve function.
To further explore neurogenic mechanisms influence on the scarless skin repair, fetal rats were wounded on gestational days 16 (E16; n = 24) and 18 (E18; n = 8) and wounds were harvested at 1 and 3 days after injury. Unwounded skin at identical gestational age was used for control comparison. The scarless E16 and scarring E18 wounds underwent macroarray gene expression analysis (1172 genes).
During the scarless healing period, 53 (4.5%) genes had a statistically significant upregulation post-injury with at least a 2- to 3-fold change 1 day after wounding and 14 (1.2%) genes 3 days after wounding (P < 0.05). Many neurodevelopmental genes were increased during scarless repair on post-injury days 1 and 3. Neuropeptide Y Receptor type I, cJun related Transcription Factor (junD), Synaptophysin, SNAP 25, Neuronal calcium sensor 1 (NCS1), neural visine-like calcium binding protein 1 (NVP1), nerve growth factor-induced gene A (NGFI-A/EGR1), VGF8A protein, p27kip1, and members of the GABA and serotonin family each had 2- to 3-fold expression increases (P < 0.05).
We speculate that fetal skin cells express neurotrophins during skin development that regulate peripheral neuron formation. During injury these factors promote the survival and regeneration of peripheral neurons; this interaction of neuropeptides, neuropeptide receptors, and neurotrophins may modulate the fetal scarless repair mechanisms in response to injury. Identification of these neurodevelopmental candidate genes provides insight for new investigation into mechanisms regulating scarless healing.