Stratum corneum tryptic enzyme kallikrein 5 (KLK5) is a serine protease that is involved in the cell renewal and maintenance of the skin barrier function. The excessive activation of KLK5 causes an exacerbation of dermatoses, such as rosacea and atopic dermatitis. Some triterpenoids are reported to suppress the serine proteases. We aimed to investigate whether bioactive triterpenoids modulate the KLK5 protease. Nineteen triterpenoids occurring in medicinal crude drugs were evaluated using an enzymatic assay to measure the anti-KLK5 activity. The KLK5-dependent cathelicidin peptide LL-37 production in human keratinocytes was examined using immunoprecipitation and Western blotting. Screening assays for evaluating the anti-KLK5 activity revealed that ursolic acid, oleanolic acid, saikosaponin b₁, tumulosic acid and pachymic acid suppressed the KLK5 protease activity, although critical molecular moieties contributing to anti-KLK5 activity were unclarified. Ursolic acid and tumulosic acid suppressed the proteolytic processing of LL-37 in keratinocytes at ≤10 μM; no cytotoxicity was observed. Both triterpenoids were detected in the plasma of rats administered orally with triterpenoid-rich crude drug Jumihaidokuto. Our study reveals that triterpenoids, such as ursolic acid and tumulosic acid, modulate the KLK5 protease activity and cathelicidin peptide production. Triterpenoids may affect the skin barrier function via the regulation of proteases.
Keywords: Jumihaidokuto; LL-37; cathelicidin; kallikrein 5; kallikrein 7; skin barrier; triterpenoid; tumulosic acid; ursolic acid.