Age-related changes in the proteoglycans of human skin - Specific cleavage of decorin to yield a major catabolic fragment in adult skin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Dramatic changes occur in skin as a function of age, including changes in morphology, physiology, and mechanical properties. Changes in extracellular matrix molecules also occur, and these changes likely contribute to the overall age-related changes in the physical properties of skin. The major proteoglycans detected in extracts of human skin are decorin and versican. In addition, adult human skin contains a truncated form of decorin, whereas fetal skin contains virtually undetectable levels of this truncated decorin. Analysis of this molecule, herein referred to as decorunt, indicates that it is a catabolic fragment of decorin rather than a splice variant. With antibody probes to the core protein, decorunt is found to lack the carboxyl-terminal portion of decorin. Further analysis by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry shows that the carboxyl terminus of decorunt is at Phe(170) of decorin. This result indicates that decorunt represents the amino-terminal 43% of the mature decorin molecule. Such a structure is inconsistent with alternative splicing of decorin and suggests that decorunt is a catabolic fragment of decorin. A neoepitope antiserum, anti-VRKVTF, was generated against the carboxyl terminus of decorunt. This antiserum does not recognize intact decorin in any skin proteoglycan sample tested on immunoblots but recognizes every sample of decorunt tested. The results with anti-VRKVTF confirm the identification of the carboxyl terminus of decorunt. Analysis of collagen binding by surface plasmon resonance indicates that the affinity of decorunt for type I collagen is 100-fold less than that of decorin. This observation correlates with the structural analysis of decorunt, in that it lacks regions of decorin previously shown to be important for interaction with type I collagen. The detection of a catabolic fragment of decorin suggests the existence of a specific catabolic pathway for this proteoglycan. Because of the capacity of decorin to influence collagen fibrillogenesis, catabolism of decorin may have important functional implications with respect to the dermal collagen network.


  • David A Carrino
  • Patrik Önnerfjord
  • John D Sandy
  • Gabriella Cs-Szabo
  • Paul G Scott
  • Dick Heinegård
  • J Michael Sorrell
  • Arnold I Caplan
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Rheumatology and Autoimmunity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17566-17572
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Connective Tissue Biology (013230151)