The expression of proinflammatory genes in epidermal keratinocytes is regulated by hydration status

Wei Xu, Shengxian Jia, Ping Xie, Aimei Zhong, Robert D. Galiano, Thomas A. Mustoe*, Seok J. Hong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Mucosal wounds heal more rapidly, exhibit less inflammation, and are associated with minimal scarring when compared with equivalent cutaneous wounds. We previously demonstrated that cutaneous epithelium exhibits an exaggerated response to injury compared with mucosal epithelium. We hypothesized that treatment of injured skin with a semiocclusive dressing preserves the hydration of the skin and results in a wound healing phenotype that more closely resembles that of mucosa. Here we explored whether changes in hydration status alter epidermal gene expression patterns in rabbit partial-thickness incisional wounds. Using microarray studies on injured epidermis, we showed that global gene expression patterns in highly occluded versus non-occluded wounds are distinct. Many genes including IL-1β, IL-8, TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-α), and COX-2 (cyclooxygenase 2) are upregulated in non-occluded wounds compared with highly occluded wounds. In addition, decreased levels of hydration resulted in an increased expression of proinflammatory genes in human ex vivo skin culture (HESC) and stratified keratinocytes. Hierarchical analysis of genes using RNA interference showed that both TNF-α and IL-1β regulate the expression of IL-8 through independent pathways in response to reduced hydration. Furthermore, both gene knockdown and pharmacological inhibition studies showed that COX-2 mediates the TNF-α/IL-8 pathway by increasing the production of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). IL-8 in turn controls the production of matrix metalloproteinase-9 in keratinocytes. Our data show that hydration status directly affects the expression of inflammatory signaling in the epidermis. The identification of genes involved in the epithelial hydration pathway provides an opportunity to develop strategies to reduce scarring and optimize wound healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1044-1055
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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