It is currently thought that UVB radiation drives photoaging of the skin primarily by generating ROS. In this model, ROS purportedly activates activator protein-1 to upregulate MMPs 1, 3, and 9, which then degrade collagen and other extracellular matrix components to produce wrinkles. However, these MMPs are expressed at relatively low levels and correlate poorly with wrinkles, suggesting that another mechanism distinct from ROS and MMP1/3/9 may be more directly associated with photoaging. Here we show that MMP2, which degrades type IV collagen, is abundantly expressed in human skin, increases with age in sun-exposed skin, and correlates robustly with aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a transcription factor directly activated by UV-generated photometabolites. Through mechanistic studies with HaCaT human immortalized keratinocytes, we found that AhR, specificity protein 1 (SP1), and other pathways associated with DNA damage are required for the induction of both MMP2 and MMP11 (another MMP implicated in photoaging), but not MMP1/3. Last, we found that topical treatment with AhR antagonists vitamin B12 and folic acid ameliorated UVB-induced wrinkle formation in mice while dampening MMP2 expression in the skin. These results directly implicate DNA damage in photoaging and reveal AhR as a potential target for preventing wrinkles.
Daniel J. Kim, Akiko Iwasaki, Anna L. Chien, Sewon Kang