Epidermal homeostasis: the role of the growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor systems

Endocr Rev. 2003 Dec;24(6):737-64. doi: 10.1210/er.2002-0021.


GH and IGF-I and -II were first identified by their endocrine activity. Specifically, IGF-I was found to mediate the linear growth-promoting actions of GH. It is now evident that these two growth factor systems also exert widespread activity throughout the body and that their actions are not always interconnected. The literature highlights the importance of the GH and IGF systems in normal skin homeostasis, including dermal/epidermal cross-talk. GH activity, sometimes mediated via IGF-I, is primarily evident in the dermis, particularly affecting collagen synthesis. In contrast, IGF action is an important feature of the dermal and epidermal compartments, predominantly enhancing cell proliferation, survival, and migration. The locally expressed IGF binding proteins play significant and complex roles, primarily via modulation of IGF actions. Disturbances in GH and IGF signaling pathways are implicated in the pathophysiology of several skin perturbations, particularly those exhibiting epidermal hyperplasia (e.g., psoriasis, carcinomas). Additionally, many studies emphasize the potential use of both growth factors in the treatment of skin wounds; for example, burn patients. This overview concerns the role and mechanisms of action of the GH and IGF systems in skin and maintenance of epidermal integrity in both health and disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dermis / metabolism
  • Epidermis / physiology*
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Growth Hormone / physiology*
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Skin / anatomy & histology
  • Skin Diseases / physiopathology
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena
  • Somatomedins / metabolism
  • Somatomedins / physiology*
  • Wound Healing


  • Somatomedins
  • Growth Hormone