Open Access Research article

Modulation of cathepsin G expression in severe atopic dermatitis following medium-dose UVA1 phototherapy

Frank Breuckmann*, Gregor von Kobyletzki, Annelies Avermaete, Alexander Kreuter, Peter Altmeyer and Thilo Gambichler

Author Affiliations

Department of Dermatology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Gudrunstrasse 56, D-44791 Bochum, Germany

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BMC Dermatology 2002, 2:12  doi:10.1186/1471-5945-2-12

Published: 30 August 2002



During the last decade, medium-dose UVA1 phototherapy (50 J/cm2) has achieved great value within the treatment of severe atopic dermatitis (AD). The purpose of our study was to investigate to what extent UVA1 irradiation is able to modulate the status of protease activity by the use of a monoclonal antibody labeling cathepsin G.


In order to further elucidate the mechanisms by which medium-dose UVA1 irradiation leads to an improvement of skin status in patients with AD, biopsy specimens from 15 patients before and after treatment were analyzed immunohistochemically for proteolytic activation.


Compared to lesional skin of patients with AD before UVA1 irradiation, the number of cells positive for cathepsin G within the dermal infiltrate decreased significantly after treatment. The decrease of cathepsin G+ cells was closely linked to a substantial clinical improvement in skin condition.


In summary, our findings demonstrated that medium-dose UVA1 irradiation leads to a modulation of the expression of cathepsin G in the dermal inflammatory infiltrate in patients with severe AD. Cathepsin G may attack laminin, proteoglycans, collagen I and insoluble fibronectin, to provoke proinflammatory events, to degrade the basement membrane, to destroy the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases and to increase the endothelial permeability. Therefore, its down-regulation by UVA1 phototherapy may induce the reduction of skin inflammation as well as improvement of the skin condition.