Distribution of esterase activity in porcine ear skin, and the effects of freezing and heat separation

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Porcine ear skin is widely used to study skin permeation and absorption of ester compounds, whose permeation and absorption profiles may be directly influenced by in situ skin esterase activity. Importantly, esterase distribution and activity in porcine ear skin following common protocols of skin handling and storage have not been characterised. Thus, we have compared the distribution and hydrolytic activity of esterases in freshly excised, frozen, heated and explanted porcine ear skin. Using an esterase staining kit, esterase activity was found to be localised in the stratum corneum and viable epidermis. Under frozen storage and a common heating protocol of epidermal sheet separation, esterase staining in the skin visibly diminished. This was confirmed by a quantitative assay using HPLC to monitor the hydrolysis of aspirin, in freshly excised, frozen or heated porcine ear skin. Compared to vehicle-only control, the rate of aspirin hydrolysis was approximately three-fold higher in the presence of freshly excised skin, but no different in the presence of frozen or heated skin. Therefore, frozen and heat-separated porcine ear skin should not be used to study the permeation of ester-containing permeants, in particular co-drugs and pro-drugs, whose hydrolysis or degradation can be modulated by skin esterases.

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