Function of palmitoyl tripeptide-38 in skin


What is palmitoyl tripeptide-38?

Palmitoyl tripeptide-38 (PT-38), named MATRIXYL synthe'6 and Volulip, a cosmetic peptide or double-oxidized lipopeptide, is a synthetic peptide used extensively in dermatological research and cosmeceutical formulations. It is a signal peptide, a specific class of peptides known for their ability to communicate biological messages to skin cells. Palmitoyl tripeptide-38 is a mimetic compound of matrine with multiple biological activities, which can regulate cell activity, wound repair, and collagen tissue remodeling. It enhances skin elasticity and reduces fine lines by stimulating the synthesis of collagen and elastin at the junction of the skin matrix and dermis epidermis. Topical use of this peptide can significantly improve skin texture and appearance, making the skin younger and healthier.

Chemical structure of palmitoyl tripeptide-38

The chemical structure and composition of palmitoyl tripeptide-38 are pivotal for its efficacy in skincare. This synthetic peptide comprises a tripeptide sequence, typically composed of three amino acids, with a palmitoyl group attached to one end. It is white or light white power and its molecular structural formula is just as shown in Fig.1. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, form the backbone of the peptide, while the palmitoyl group, a 16-carbon saturated fatty acid derived from palmitic acid, enhances its lipophilicity. This modification facilitates efficient skin penetration, ensuring that the peptide reaches target cells.

The-molecular-structure-of-Palmitoyl-Tripeptide-38Fig 1. The molecular structure of palmitoyl tripeptide-38.

What is the origin of palmitoyl tripeptide-38?

The origin of palmitoyl tripeptide-38 is rooted in a tripeptide KMK naturally present in collagen VI and laminin. This peptide is pro-collagen lipopeptide which rebuilds the skin from the inside where it is needed, soothing wrinkles and skin especially for the forehead, crow's feet, heads and necks. Advances in peptide synthesis technology have allowed researchers to develop analogs that mimic these natural processes but with enhanced stability and efficacy. PT-38, specifically, was designed to target the extracellular matrix (ECM) components of the skin, focusing on collagen and other essential proteins. The synthesis of PT-38 involves the solid-phase peptide synthesis (SPPS) technique, which allows for precise construction of the peptide sequence and attachment of the palmitoyl group, resulting in a molecule optimized for dermatological use.

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CAT Product Name M.W
CPC1608 Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzylamide Diacetate 495.5733
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CPC1641 Heptapeptide
CPC1629 Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 578.8
CPC1618 Tripeptide-10 Citrulline 530.6228
CPC1614 Hexapeptide-9 582.61

PT-38 mechanism of action in skin physiology

PT-38 exerts its effects through a multi-faceted mechanism involving several pathways crucial for skin health and repair. It primarily functions by modulating the activity of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and promoting the synthesis of key ECM components, including collagen, fibronectin, and hyaluronic acid.

Modulation of matrix metalloproteinases

Matrix metalloproteinases are enzymes that degrade various components of the ECM. While MMPs play a necessary role in normal tissue remodeling and repair, their overactivity can lead to excessive degradation of collagen and other structural proteins, contributing to skin aging and wrinkle formation. PT-38 helps to balance MMP activity, ensuring that ECM breakdown does not surpass synthesis, thereby maintaining structural integrity and resilience of the skin.

Stimulation of collagen synthesis

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the skin and is essential for maintaining its strength, elasticity, and firmness. Fibroblasts, the primary cells responsible for collagen production, synthesize collagen in response to various stimuli, including growth factors and signaling peptides like PT-38. PT-38 binds to specific receptors on the surface of fibroblasts, triggering intracellular signaling cascades that activate collagen gene expression. This leads to increased collagen synthesis, which helps restore skin firmness and elasticity, reduces the appearance of wrinkles, and improves overall skin texture and tone.

Enhancement of ECM protein synthesis

In addition to collagen, the extracellular matrix (ECM) contains other structural proteins and molecules, such as fibronectin and hyaluronic acid, which are essential for maintaining skin hydration, elasticity, and integrity. PT-38 promotes the synthesis of these ECM components by activating signaling pathways that upregulate their gene expression. Fibronectin, for example, plays a crucial role in cell adhesion and migration, facilitating tissue repair and regeneration. Hyaluronic acid, on the other hand, is a highly hydrophilic molecule that binds water and helps maintain skin hydration and suppleness. By enhancing the production of these ECM proteins, PT-38 contributes to overall skin health and vitality.

Cellular communication and homeostasis

PT-38 also modulates cellular communication and homeostasis, ensuring optimal functioning of skin cells. It influences various signaling pathways involved in cell growth, proliferation, differentiation, and repair. By promoting cellular homeostasis, PT-38 helps maintain the balance between cell turnover and regeneration, ensuring the integrity and resilience of the skin. This activity is particularly important in repairing damaged skin, combating environmental stressors, and preserving overall skin health.

What does palmitoyl tripeptide-38 do for the skin?

The Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, as a cosmetic raw material, plays an important role in our life. And it has many positive effects, for example, it can be as an ingredient associated with the serum in the cosmetic formula to decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, especially in forehead, crow's feet, heads and necks. The anti-wrinkle effect of the palmitoyl tripeptide-38 was also demonstrated clinically, and In-vitro studies have shown that the Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38 can be as an ingredient added into serum formulation, which could exert several and synergistic beneficial anti-aging effects at epidermal and dermal level, and most importantly, it results in a reduction of wrinkles and a dermis-redensifying and a skin smoothing effect. It may attract more attention of researchers and expected to be applied in the cosmetic filed, such as skin care products, and anti-wrinkle, anti-aging products and skin repair products, because of its special property and positive effects.

Anti-aging potential

Research has consistently shown that PT-38 can significantly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Its ability to stimulate collagen synthesis and modulate MMP activity addresses two fundamental processes in skin aging: the breakdown of existing collagen and the decline in new collagen production. By enhancing the structural framework of the skin, PT-38 not only improves its appearance but also its functional resilience against environmental stressors.

Wound healing and repair

In addition to its anti-aging properties, PT-38 has shown promise in wound healing and skin repair. The peptide's ability to stimulate ECM production is beneficial in accelerating the repair of damaged tissues. Studies have demonstrated that PT-38 can enhance the migration and proliferation of fibroblasts and keratinocytes, two cell types essential for effective wound closure and re-epithelialization. This makes PT-38 a valuable molecule in the development of treatments for acute wounds and chronic ulcers.

Improvement in skin hydration

Another notable benefit of PT-38 is its role in improving skin hydration. By promoting the synthesis of hyaluronic acid, a molecule known for its exceptional water-binding capacity, PT-38 helps to maintain skin moisture levels. Enhanced hydration is associated with improved skin barrier function and overall skin health, making PT-38 a beneficial component in formulations designed to combat dryness and dehydration.


  1. Sanz, M. T.; et al. Biorevitalizing effect of a novel facial serum containing apple stem cell extract, pro-collagen lipopeptide, creatine, and urea on skin aging signs. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2016, 15(1): 24-30.
  2. Trookman, N. S.; et al. Clinical assessment of a combination lip treatment to restore moisturization and fullness. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2009, 2(12): 44-48.

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