Archives of Dermatological Research

, Volume 300, Supplement 1, pp 7–20 | Cite as

Recent advances in characterizing biological mechanisms underlying UV-induced wrinkles: a pivotal role of fibrobrast-derived elastase

  • Genji ImokawaEmail author
Original Paper


In clinical studies, the formation of facial wrinkles has been closely linked to the loss of elastic properties of the skin. Cumulative irradiation with ultraviolet (UV) B at suberythemal doses significantly reduces the elastic properties of the skin, resulting in the formation of wrinkles. In in vitro studies, we identified a paracrine pathway between keratinocytes and fibroblasts, which leads to wrinkle formation via the up-regulation of fibroblast elastases that degrade elastic fibers. UVB irradiation stimulates the activity of fibroblast elastases in animal skin. Scanning electron microscopy revealed that cumulative UVB irradiation elicits a marked alteration in the three-dimensional structure of elastic fibers, which is closely associated with the subsequent reduction in the elastic properties of the skin, resulting in wrinkle formation. Studies using anti-wrinkle treatments suggest a close relationship between the recovery of wrinkles and an improvement in the linearity of elastic fibers. Those studies also suggest a close correlation between the recovery in the linearity of elastic fibers and the improvement in skin elasticity. In a study using ovariectomized animals, we characterized the important role of elastase in their high vulnerability to UV-induced wrinkle formation. A synthetic inhibitor specific for fibroblast elastases significantly prevents wrinkle formation without reducing the elastic properties of the skin, accompanied by minor damage in elastic fibers. Finally, we identified an effective extract of Zingiber officinale (L.) Rose from a screen of many herb extracts, which has a safe and potent inhibitory activity against fibroblast elastases. Animal studies using the L. Rose extract revealed that it has significant preventive effects against UVB-induced wrinkle formation, which occur in concert with beneficial effects on skin elasticity. A 1-year clinical study on human facial skin to determine the efficacy of the L. Rose extract demonstrated that it inhibits the UV-induced decrease in skin elasticity and prevents or improves wrinkle formation in skin around the corner of the eye without changing the water content of the stratum corneum. Our long-term studies support our hypothesis for a mechanism of wrinkle formation in which cytokine expression is activated by UV irradiation and triggers dermal fibroblasts to increase the expression of elastase. That increase in elastase results in the deterioration of the three-dimensional architecture of elastic fibers, reducing skin elasticity and finally leading to the formation of wrinkles.


Wrinkle UV Elasticity Elastin Elastase Fibroblast 


Conflict of interest statement

The author has no potential conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Katayanagi Institute-W204School of Bionics, Tokyo University of TechnologyTokyoJapan

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