Decreased extracellular-signal-regulated kinase and increased stress-activated MAP kinase activities in aged human skin in vivo

J. H. Chung, S. Kang, J. Varani, J. Lin, G. J. Fisher, J. J. Voorhees

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


The ability of human skin to rejuvenate itself diminishes with the passage of time, resulting in increased fragility. This increased fragility reflects both reduced growth of skin cells and loss of collagenous connective tissue. Oxidative damage plays a central role in cellular aging. Cellular responses to growth signals and oxidative stress are mediated, in part, by growth-factor-activated and stress-activated MAP kinases. We report here that the extracellular-signal-regulated MAP kinase pathway is reduced and the stress-activated MAP kinase pathway is increased in old, compared with young, human skin in vivo. Extracellular-signal-regulated kinase activity was 45% lower in old skin (mean age 84.3 y) relative to young skin (mean age 23.8 y). This lower extracellular-signal-regulated kinase activity resulted from reduced activation, since total extracellular-signal-regulated kinase protein levels did not differ between young and old skin, whereas phosphorylated (i.e., activated) extracellular-signal-regulated kinase protein was reduced 60% in old skin. Cyclin D2, which is regulated by extracellular-signal-regulated kinase and functions to promote cell cycle progression, was reduced 50% in old skin compared with young skin. In contrast, stress-activated MAP kinase activity was elevated 3.4-fold in old skin compared with young skin. This increased activity resulted from enhanced activation, since total stress-activated MAP kinase protein levels were similar in old and young skin. Transcription factor c-Jun, which is activated by stress-activated MAP kinases and promotes expression of connective-tissue-degrading matrix metalloproteinases, was elevated 2-fold in old skin compared with young skin. Treatment of old skin with vitamin A (retinol) for 7 d stimulated extracellular-signal-regulated kinase activity, consistent with its demonstrated ability to stimulate cell growth in old human skin. Taken together, these data indicate that alterations in MAP kinase activities play a key role in the pathophysiology of human skin aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-182
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • C-Fos
  • C-Jun
  • Cyclin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Decreased extracellular-signal-regulated kinase and increased stress-activated MAP kinase activities in aged human skin in vivo'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this