Radiation Therapy Induces Tenascin Expression and Angiogenesis in Human Skin
Riitta Riekki, Arja Jukkola, Aarne Oikarinen, Matti Kallioinen
In analysing radiation-induced connective tissue changes, we studied tenascin expression, elastic fibres, angiogenesis and physio-mechanical properties in irradiated and contralateral healthy skin of radiotherapy-treated breast cancer patients. Skin biopsies were obtained from a radiotherapy-treated skin area and a corresponding non-treated skin area. Haematoxylin-eosin and Verhoeff stainings as well as immunohistochemical stainings for tenascin and factor VIII were performed. Epidermal and total skin thickness, together with the amount of elastic tissue calculated by computerized digital image analysis, were measured. Suction blisters were induced on both skin areas. Transepidermal water loss was analysed. Skin elasticity was also measured. Tenascin expression was found to be increased in irradiated human skin. In haematoxylin-eosin and factor VIII-stained sections, an increase in the number of blood vessels was detected. Although skin stiffness measured by an elastometer was increased in irradiated skin, no marked difference in the elastic fibres could be found between treated and non-treated skin. The increased tenascin expression could be due to activation of cytokines as a result of irradiation. An increase in angiogenesis could be caused by an activation of angiogenetic factors by irradiation or due to direct radiation damage on blood vessel walls. Our findings suggest that the effects of irradiation tend to accumulate in the dermal parts of skin. The higher skin stiffness values measured by elastometer in irradiated skin could be due to an accumulation of dermal connective tissue as a result of irradiation.