Background: Rosacea is a common disfiguring skin disease of primarily Caucasians characterized by central erythema of the face, with telangiectatic blood vessels, papules and pustules, and can produce skin thickening, especially on the nose of men, creating rhinophyma. Rosacea can also produce dry, itchy eyes with irritation of the lids, keratitis and corneal scarring. The cause of rosacea has been proposed as over-production of the cationic cathelicidin peptide LL-37.
Methodology/principal findings: We tested a new class of non-anticoagulant sulfated anionic polysaccharides, semi-synthetic glycosaminoglycan ethers (SAGEs) on key elements of the pathogenic pathway leading to rosacea. SAGEs were anti-inflammatory at ng/ml, including inhibition of polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) proteases, P-selectin, and interaction of the receptor for advanced glycation end-products (RAGE) with four representative ligands. SAGEs bound LL-37 and inhibited interleukin-8 production induced by LL-37 in cultured human keratinocytes. When mixed with LL-37 before injection, SAGEs prevented the erythema and PMN infiltration produced by direct intradermal injection of LL-37 into mouse skin. Topical application of a 1% (w/w) SAGE emollient to overlying injected skin also reduced erythema and PMN infiltration from intradermal LL-37.
Conclusions: Anionic polysaccharides, exemplified by SAGEs, offer potential as novel mechanism-based therapies for rosacea and by extension other LL-37-mediated and RAGE-ligand driven skin diseases.