Cell-Matrix Interactions Modulate Interstitial Collagenase Expression by Human Keratinocytes Actively Involved in Wound Healing

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We reported that interstitial collagenase is produced by keratinocytes at the edge of ulcers in pyogenic granuloma, and in this report, we assessed if production of this metalloproteinase is a common feature of the epidermal response in a variety of wounds.In all samples of chronic ulcers, regardless of etiology, and in incision wounds, collagenase mRNA, localized by in situ hybridization, was prominently expressed by basal keratinocytes bordering the sites of active re-epithelialization indicating that collagenolytic activity is a characteristic response of the epidermis to wounding. No expression of mRNAs for 72- and 92-kD gelatinases or matrilysin was seen in keratinocytes, and no signal for any metalloproteinase was detected in normal epidermis. Immunostaining for type IV collagen showed that collagenase-positive keratinocytes were not in contact with an intact basement membrane and, unlike normal keratinocytes, expressed alpha5 beta1 receptors. These observations suggest that cell-matrix interactions influence collagenase expression by epidermal cells. Indeed, as determined by ELISA, primary cultures of human keratinocytes grown on basement membrane proteins (Matrigel; Collaborative Research Inc., Bedford, MA) did not express significant levels of collagenase, whereas cells grown on type I collagen produced markedly increased levels. These results suggest that migrating keratinocytes actively involved in re-epithelialization acquire a collagenolytic phenotype upon contact with the dermal matrix. (J. Clin. Invest. 1993. 92:2858-2866.) Key words: collagenase. keratinocytes. wound healing. basement membrane. collagen

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