Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a protease-modulated chronic disorder with heterogenous clinical manifestations which may lead to an imprecise diagnosis. To date, there are no diagnostic protease tests for AD. We explored the gingival crevicular fluid (GCF) protease profile of individuals with moderate/severe AD compared to healthy controls. An exploratory case-control study was conducted. AD patients (n = 23) and controls (n = 21) were enrolled at the International Center for Clinical Studies, Santiago, Chile. Complete dermatological and periodontal evaluations (involving the collection of GCF samples) were made. The levels of 35 proteases were analyzed using a human protease antibody array in matching AD patients (n = 6) and controls (n = 6) with healthy periodontium. The GCF levels of zinc-binding ADAM8, ADAM9, MMP8, Neprilysin/CD10, aspartyl-binding Cathepsin E, serin-binding Protein convertase9, and uPA/Urokinase proteases were lower in moderate/severe AD patients compared to controls (p < 0.05). No inter-group differences in the levels of the other 28 proteases were found. MMP8, Cathepsin E, and ADAM9 were the biomarkers with the highest sensitivity and specificity regarding the detection of AD (p < 0.05). The area under receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve for MMP8 was 0.83 and MMP8 + ADAMP9 was 0.90, with no significant differences (p = 0.132). A combined model of MMP8, Cathepsin E, and ADAM9 was not considered since it did not converge. Then, levels of MMP8 in GCF were determined using a multiplex bead immunoassay in 23 subjects with AD and 21 healthy subjects. Lower levels of MMP8 in the GCF from the AD group versus healthy group (p = 0.029) were found. This difference remained significant after adjustment by periodontitis (p = 0.042). MMP8 revealed the diagnostic potential to identify AD patients versus healthy controls, (ROC area = 0.672, p < 0.05). In conclusion, differences in the protease profile between AD and control patients were associated with MMP8, Cathepsin E, and ADAM9. Based on the multiplex assay results, MMP8 was lower in AD patients than controls, suggesting that MMP8 may be a diagnostic biomarker candidate.
Keywords: atopic dermatitis; biomarkers; enzymes; gingival crevicular fluid; metalloproteases; peptide hydrolases.