The role of endogenous and exogenous enzymes in chronic wounds: A focus on the implications of aberrant levels of both host and bacterial proteases in wound healing

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Cutaneous wound healing is orchestrated by a number of physiological pathways that ultimately lead to reformation of skin integrity and the production of functional scar tissue. The remodeling of a wound is significantly affected by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which act to control the degradation of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Regulation of MMPs is imperative for wound healing as excessive levels of MMPs can lead to disproportionate destruction of the wound ECM compared to ECM deposition. In addition to human MMPs, bacterial proteases have been found to be influential in tissue breakdown and, as such, have a role to play in the healing of infected wounds. For example, the zinc-metalloproteinase, elastase, produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, induces degradation of fibroblast proteins and proteoglycans in chronic wounds and has also been shown to degrade host immune cell mediators. Microbial extracellular enzymes have also been shown to degrade human wound fluid and inhibit fibroblast cell growth. It is now being acknowledged that host and bacterial MMPs may act synergistically to cause tissue breakdown within the wound bed. Several studies have suggested that bacterial-derived secreted proteases may act to up-regulate the levels of MMPs produced by the host cells. Together, these findings indicate that bacterial phenotype in terms of protease producing potential of bacteria should be taken into consideration during diagnostic and clinical intervention of infected wound management. Furthermore, both host MMPs and those derived from infecting bacteria need to be targeted in order to increase the healing capacity of the injured tissue. The aim of this review is to investigate the evidence suggestive of a relationship between unregulated levels of both host and bacterial proteases and delayed wound healing.

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