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ABSTRACT

Biophotonics and real-time imaging are novel technologies that can greatly enhance the study of complex biological processes. We applied this technology in a transgenic mouse with a luciferase reporter gene fused to a transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) responsive Smad2/3-binding element to study bioluminescence after skin wounding. Two dorsal midline excisional skin wounds were made using a biopsy punch. One wound was randomized to suture closure and the other allowed to heal by secondary intention (n=8 each wound). Bioluminescence was measured at fixed time points following surgery. Phospho-Smad2/3 immunohistochemistry was performed to localize expression in skin wound samples. In vivo bioluminescence increased following skin wounding. Peak activity occurred on day 17 and was fourfold that of baseline (p<0.05). Subgroup analysis of primary and secondary healing showed that primarily sutured wounds had peak activities earlier than those with secondary healing, although this did not reach statistical significance. Intense phospho-Smad2/3 staining was found in the hair follicles. In vivo bioluminescence tracks Smad2/3-dependent TGF-β signaling in the in vivo wound healing process. Our findings suggest that signaling increases after wound healing, which contrasts with other studies that show raised TGF-β signaling in the initial days following wounding.