Prior studies in hairless mice have demonstrated that acute barrier disruption by acetone treatment increases the molecular weight (MW) cutoff of polyethylene glycol (PEG) penetration through the skin. The objective of the present study was to further investigate the dependence of permeability on MW with different forms of barrier disruption. A series of PEGs ranging in MW from near 300 to over 1000Da were used to study the effects of tape stripping and sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) treatment on the MW permeability profiles of mouse skin in vitro. The 12-h percutaneous penetration of all the PEG 300, 600, and 1000 oligomers generally increased as a function of transepidermal water loss (TEWL) of the skin, either tape-stripped or SDS-treated. In addition, the total penetration of PEG oligomers across control skin, and skin tape-stripped and SDS-treated to different degrees of barrier disruption progressively decreased with increasing MW. There were no significant differences in the percutaneous penetration of the PEG oligomers between skin tape-stripped and SDS-treated to the same degree of barrier disruption. The penetration enhancement relative to control skin was more prominent with larger molecules. The MW cutoff for skin penetration increased with the degree of barrier disruption irrespective of the treatment applied, and was 986 Da (tape stripping) and 766Da (SDS treatment) at TEWL levels in the range 10-20 g/m2 per h in comparison with 414 Da for control skin. In accordance with previous findings in acetone-treated mouse skin, the results strongly suggest that, irrespective of the form of barrier disruption applied, not only higher amounts but also more varieties of chemicals (larger molecules) may penetrate skin with a compromised barrier than normal skin.
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