Epithelial barrier function: assembly and structural features of the cornified cell envelope

Authors

  • Andrey E. Kalinin,

    1. Laboratory of Skin Biology, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892
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  • Andrey V. Kajava,

    1. Center for Molecular Modeling, Center for Information Technology, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892
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  • Peter M. Steinert

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratory of Skin Biology, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892
    • Laboratory of Skin Biology, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 50 South Drive, Room 1523, Bethesda, MD 20892-8023.
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  • This article is a US Government work, and as such, is in the public domain in the United States of America

Abstract

Terminally differentiating stratified squamous epithelial cells assemble a specialized protective barrier structure on their periphery termed the cornified cell envelope (CE). It is composed of numerous structural proteins that become cross-linked by several transglutaminase enzymes into an insoluble macromolecular assembly. Several proteins are involved in the initial stages of CE assembly, but only certain proteins from a choice of more than 20 different proteins are used in the final stages of CE reinforcement, apparently to meet tissue-specific requirements. In addition, a variable selection of proteins may be upregulated in response to genetic defects of one of the CE proteins or tissue injury, in an effort to maintain an effective barrier. Additionally, in the epidermis and hair fiber cuticle, a layer of lipids is covalently attached to the proteins, which provides essential water barrier properties. Here we describe our current understanding of CE structure, a possible mechanism of its assembly, and various disorders that cause a defective barrier. BioEssays 24:789–800, 2002. Published 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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