Skin biopsies from 4 systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients, 6 SSc patients treated with D-penicillamine (from 8 to 60 months) and 4 normal subjects were analyzed by light and electron microscopy. By light microscopy, collagen bundles of SSc dermis were thicker and more compact than in age-matched controls; D-penicillamine treatment did not significantly modify their organization. On the contrary, a stereological analysis showed that the elastin volume density was higher in patients than in controls, and increased again after D-penicillamine treatment: moreover, the number of elastin fibers per unit area was significantly higher in the dermis of patients compared to controls, and became even higher after D-penicillamine treatment. The phenomena were evident in all strata of the dermis; however, the most significant increase of elastin in SSc patients compared to controls was in the superficial dermis, whereas after D-penicillamine treatment, all the strata of the dermis showed a significant increase in the percentage of elastin and in the number of elastin fibers per unit area compared to untreated patients and to controls. There were no relationships between elastin increase and time from the onset of SSc or time and dose of D-penicillamine treatment. At the ultrastructural level, collagen fibrils had rather heterogeneous diameters and formed more compact fibers, especially in the reticular and in the deep dermis of SSc patients compared to controls. After D-penicillamine, collagen fibril diameters in three of 5 patients examined were statistically wider and more heterogeneous than in controls and in untreated patients, whereas in the other 2 subjects both the mean diameter and the distribution of the class diameter were similar to both controls and untreated patients. This could suggest a specific individual reaction to the drug. Elastin fibers were smaller, more numerous and polymorphous in all patients compared to controls. After D-penicillamine, elastin fibers became even more numerous and smaller than in untreated patients. There was no correlation between the number and size of the elastin fibers and the time or dose of D-penicillamine. The internal organization of the elastin fibers was normal. These data indicate that the amount and distribution of collagen and elastin are altered in the dermis of SSc patients, and that D-penicillamine interferes with the deposition of both fibrous proteins in the dermal extracellular space.
Dermal elastin and collagen in systemic sclerosis. Effect of D-penicillamine treatment / Ronchetti, Ip.; Guerra, D.; Quaglino, D.; Vincenzi, D.; Manzini, E.; Canossi, B.; Manzini, C. U.. - In: CLINICAL AND EXPERIMENTAL RHEUMATOLOGY. - ISSN 0392-856X. - 7:4(1989), pp. 373-383.