Oxygen tension regulates keratinocyte migration in aged skin

Caitlin Cloud, University of Iowa


The migration of keratinocytes across wound beds is a key step in dermal wound healing. In aged human skin, wound healing rates decrease, and reactive oxygen species damage accumulation increases, but it is unclear if these factors relate specifically to migration of human skin keratinocytes (HSKs). In this study, two concentrations of oxygen (4% and 21%) were used to model low and high oxidative stress to produce varying levels of reactive oxygen species. When migration of HSKs from young and old primary skin were compared by scratch assay, those from old skin migrated faster in high oxygen tension than did young HSKs, which was an opposite trend from that seen in young skin. An intense increase in reactive oxygen species at margins immediately after scratching was seen in both young and old HSKs, but reactive oxygen species disappeared from young skin at 21% oxygen most quickly. These cells also had the slowest migration. These findings suggest that old and young keratinocytes respond differently to oxidative stress, and that migration of keratinocytes--a key step in re-epithelialization of wounds, is effected by the efficacy of reactive oxygen species removal.