Ex vivo Application of δ-Aminolevulinic Acid Induces High and Specific Porphyrin Levels in Human Skin Tumors: Possible Basis for Selective Photodynamic Therapy


*Department of Dermatology, Heinrich Heine University, Moorenstr. 5, 40225 Duesseldorf, Germany. Fax: 49-211-81-18224.


Abstract— In photodynamic therapy with topically applied δ-aminolevulinic acid porphyrins are acting as photosensitiz-ers. The profile of porphyrin metabolites in normal or in neoplastic skin after administration of δ-aminolevulinic acid has not been determined in detail yet. Thus, to study porphyrin biosynthesis in human skin an organ culture model was developed. Explant pieces of normal skin, ker-atoacanthoma, and basal cell carcinoma were incubated with 1 niM δ-aminolevulinic acid for 36 h. Levels of δ-aminolevulinic acid, porphyrins and porphyrin metabolites were measured in tissues and supernatants. After incubation with δ-aminolevulinic acid, higher porphyrin levels were demonstrated in tumors as compared to normal skin. In supernatants, most of formed porphyrins, preferentially highly carboxylated porphyrin metabolites, were measured. The pattern of synthesized porphyrins differed between normal and neoplastic skin explants. In tissues of basal cell carcinomas protoporphyrin was preferentially shown and tissues of keratoacanthomas were characterized by a predominance of coproporphyrin as compared to normal skin. The results show that explant cultures offer an easy approach to examine the porphyrin biosynthesis of various tissues. The tumor-specific δ-aminolevulinic acid metabolism indicates additional porphyrin metabolites such as coproporphyrin apart from protoporphyrin as effective photosensitizers and may offer a novel approach to tumor-selective photodynamic damage.