Separation of Rat Epidermis and Dermis with Thermolysin to Detect Site-Specific Inflammatory mRNA and Protein

* These authors contributed equally
This article has been accepted and is currently in production

Abstract

Easy-to-use and inexpensive techniques are needed to determine the site-specific production of inflammatory mediators and neurotrophins during skin injury, inflammation, and/or sensitization. The goal of this study is to describe an epidermal-dermal separation protocol using thermolysin, a proteinase that is active at 4 °C. To illustrate this procedure, Sprague Dawley rats are anesthetized, and right hind paws are injected with carrageenan. Six and twelve hours after injection, rats with inflammation and naïve rats are euthanized, and a piece of hind paw, glabrous skin is placed in cold Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium. The epidermis is then separated at the basement membrane from the dermis by thermolysin in PBS with calcium chloride. Next, the dermis is secured by microdissection forceps, and the epidermis is gently teased away. Toluidine blue staining of tissue sections show that the epidermis is separated cleanly from the dermis at the basement membrane. All keratinocyte cell layers remain intact, and the epidermal rete ridges along with indentations from dermal papillae are clearly observed. Qualitative and real-time RT-PCR is used to determine nerve growth factor and interleukin-6 expression levels. Western blotting and immunohistochemistry are finally performed to detect amounts of nerve growth factor. This report illustrates that cold thermolysin digestion is an effective method to separate epidermis from dermis for evaluation of mRNA and protein alterations during inflammation.