Collagen fragmentation promotes oxidative stress and elevates matrix metalloproteinase-1 in fibroblasts in aged human skin

Gary J. Fisher, Taihao Quan, Trupta Purohit, Yuan Shao, Kyun Cho Moon, Tianyuan He, James Varani, Sewon Kang, John J. Voorhees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aged human skin is fragile because of fragmentation and loss of type I collagen fibrils, which confer strength and resiliency. We report here that dermal fibroblasts express increased levels of collagen-degrading matrix metalloproteinases-1 (MMP-1) in aged (>80 years old) compared with young (21 to 30 years old) human skin in vivo. Transcription factor AP-1 and α2β1 integrin, which are key regulators of MMP-1 expression, are also elevated in fibroblasts in aged human skin in vivo. MMP-1 treatment of young skin in organ culture causes fragmentation of collagen fibrils and reduces fibroblast stretch, consistent with reduced mechanical tension, as observed in aged human skin. Limited fragmentation of three-dimensional collagen lattices with exogenous MMP-1 also reduces fibroblast stretch and mechanical tension. Furthermore, fibroblasts cultured in fragmented collagen lattices express elevated levels of MMP-1, AP-1, and α2β1 integrin. Importantly, culture in fragmented collagen raises intracellular oxidant levels and treatment with antioxidant MitoQ10 significantly reduces MMP-1 expression. These data identify positive feedback regulation that couples age-dependent MMP-1-catalyzed collagen fragmentation and oxidative stress. We propose that this self perpetuating cycle promotes human skin aging. These data extend the current understanding of the oxidative theory of aging beyond a cellular-centric view to include extracellular matrix and the critical role that connective tissue microenvironment plays in the biology of aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-114
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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