Neutral endopeptidase expression and distribution in human skin and wounds

John E. Olerud, Marcia L. Usui, Deniz Seckin, Diane S. Chiu, Claire L. Haycox, In Sung Song, John C. Ansel, Nigel W. Bunnett

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Cutaneous sensory nerves mediate inflammation and wound healing by the release of neuropeptides such as substance P. Neutral endopeptidase is a cell surface enzyme that degrades substance P and thereby terminates its biologic actions. The distribution of neutral endopeptidase in normal skin and wounded human skin, however, has not been examined. The objectives of this study were to evaluate neutral endopeptidase expression in wounded and unwounded skin as well as in cells derived from human skin. Neutral endopeptidase was strikingly localized in normal skin by immunohistochemistry to keratinocytes of the epidermal basal layer, to hair follicles, eccrine and sebaceous glands as well as to endothelium of blood vessels and to large nerves. Standard incisional human wounds were studied at several time points between 1 h and 28 d after wounding. Staining for neutral endopeptidase was noted in the wound bed 6 h after wounding. In contrast to normal skin, staining of all the epidermal cell layers was noted in the migrating tongue of epithelium in 1 d wounds. Similar full-thickness staining was noted in 3 d and 7 d wounds in all layers of the new wound epithelium and in a 'transition epithelium' near the wound edge. By 28 d post wounding neutral endopeptidase staining again was detected only in the basal layer of the epidermis. Neutral endopeptidase mRNA was detected in normal skin and wounds as well as cultured keratinocytes, fibroblasts and endothelial cells. Neutral endopeptidase enzymatic bioactivity was demonstrated in cultured keratinocytes. While it is known that several metalloproteinases important to tissue repair are produced by keratinocytes, this is the first evidence that keratinocytes produce neutral endopeptidase. Neutral endopeptidase may terminate the proinflammatory and mitogenic actions of neuropeptides in normal skin and wounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-881
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1999


  • Endothelial cells
  • Epidermis
  • Fibroblasts
  • Hair follicles
  • Keratinocytes
  • Nerves
  • Neutral endopeptidase
  • Wound healing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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