Glucocorticoid (GC) excess adversely affects skin integrity, inducing thinning and impaired wound healing. Aged skin, particularly that which has been photo-exposed, shares a similar phenotype. Previously, we demonstrated age-induced expression of the GC-activating enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) in cultured human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs). Here, we determined 11β-HSD1 levels in human skin biopsies from young and older volunteers and examined the aged 11β-HSD1 KO mouse skin phenotype. 11β-HSD1 activity was elevated in aged human and mouse skin and in PE compared with donor-matched photo-protected human biopsies. Age-induced dermal atrophy with deranged collagen structural organization was prevented in 11β-HSD1 KO mice, which also exhibited increased collagen density. We found that treatment of HDFs with physiological concentrations of cortisol inhibited rate-limiting steps in collagen biosynthesis and processing. Furthermore, topical 11β-HSD1 inhibitor treatment accelerated healing of full-thickness mouse dorsal wounds, with improved healing also observed in aged 11β-HSD1 KO mice. These findings suggest that elevated 11β-HSD1 activity in aging skin leads to increased local GC generation, which may account for adverse changes occurring in the elderly, and 11β-HSD1 inhibitors may be useful in the treatment of age-associated impairments in dermal integrity and wound healing.


Ana Tiganescu, Abd A. Tahrani, Stuart A. Morgan, Marcela Otranto, Alexis Desmoulière, Lianne Abrahams, Zaki Hassan-Smith, Elizabeth A. Walker, Elizabeth H. Rabbitt, Mark S. Cooper, Kurt Amrein, Gareth G. Lavery, Paul M. Stewart


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