A new method to measure type I and III collagen synthesis in human skin in vivo: demonstration of decreased collagen synthesis after topical glucocorticoid treatment

J Invest Dermatol. 1992 Feb;98(2):220-5. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12555884.


Collagen is synthesized as procollagen and large extra domains known as propeptides are cleaved off enzymatically. In the present study we have measured the carboxyterminal propeptide of type I collagen (PICP) and the aminoterminal propeptide of type III collagen (PIIINP) in blister fluids of human skin. High concentrations of PICP were found in the spontaneous blisters of patients with bullous pemphigoid, erysipelas, or erythema multiforme. Detectable amounts were also found in suction blisters induced on healthy skin. Because the concentrations in suction blisters were several times higher than in corresponding serum, most of PICP and PIIINP was derived from the underlying dermis. This method was used for assessing type I and type III collagen synthesis after topical glucocorticoid treatment. Clobetasol-17-propionate (CP) decreased the concentrations of PICP by 75% after 1 d of treatment, the maximum inhibition (92%) being found after 2 d treatment. PIIINP was also affected. Hydrocortisone and hydrocortisone-17-butyrate also decreased the concentrations of PICP and PIIINP, but less markedly than CP. Partial recovery was seen 3 d after stopping the treatment. Thus measurement of collagen type specific propeptides in suction blisters can be used as an estimate of collagen synthesis in vivo, avoiding both local anesthesia and skin biopsing. With radioimmunoassays for PICP and PIIINP a large number of samples can also be processed simultaneously.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Blister / metabolism
  • Collagen / biosynthesis*
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Fluid / chemistry
  • Intracellular Fluid / drug effects
  • Methods
  • Skin / metabolism*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Collagen