The Journal of cell biology

Lessons from loricrin-deficient mice: compensatory mechanisms maintaining skin barrier function in the absence of a major cornified envelope protein.

PMID 11038185


The epidermal cornified cell envelope (CE) is a complex protein-lipid composite that replaces the plasma membrane of terminally differentiated keratinocytes. This lamellar structure is essential for the barrier function of the skin and has the ability to prevent the loss of water and ions and to protect from environmental hazards. The major protein of the epidermal CE is loricrin, contributing approximately 70% by mass. We have generated mice that are deficient for this protein. These mice showed a delay in the formation of the skin barrier in embryonic development. At birth, homozygous mutant mice weighed less than control littermates and showed skin abnormalities, such as congenital erythroderma with a shiny, translucent skin. Tape stripping experiments suggested that the stratum corneum stability was reduced in newborn Lor(-/-) mice compared with wild-type controls. Isolated mutant CEs were more easily fragmented by sonication in vitro, indicating a greater susceptibility to mechanical stress. Nevertheless, we did not detect impaired epidermal barrier function in these mice. Surprisingly, the skin phenotype disappeared 4-5 d after birth. At least one of the compensatory mechanisms preventing a more severe skin phenotype in newborn Lor(-/-) mice is an increase in the expression of other CE components, such as SPRRP2D and SPRRP2H, members of the family of "small proline rich proteins", and repetin, a member of the "fused gene" subgroup of the S100 gene family.