Int. J. Dev. Biol. 66: 269 - 275 (2022)
doi: 10.1387/ijdb.210161gs
© UPV/EHU Press

Keratinocyte differentiation and proteolytic pathways in skin (patho) physiology

Eleni Zingkou1*, Georgios Pampalakis2, Georgia Sotiropoulou1,*

1Department of Pharmacy, School of Health Sciences, University of Patras, Rion-Patras, Greece, 2Department of Pharmacognosy-Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki, Greece

ABSTRACT The epidermis is a stratified epithelium that forms the barrier between the organism and its environment. It is mainly composed of keratinocytes at various stages of differentiation. The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of the epidermis and is formed of multiple layers of anucleated keratinocytes called corneocytes. We aim to highlight the roles of epidermal differentiation and proteolysis in skin diseases. Skin biopsies isolated from Spink5-/- mice, the established model of Netherton syndrome (NS), and from patients with NS, seborrheic dermatitis (SD) and psoriasis, as well as healthy controls, were analyzed by histology and immunohistochemistry. Our results showed that NS, SD, and psoriasis are all characterized by abnormal epidermal differentiation, manifested by hyperplasia, hyperkeratosis, and parakeratosis. At the molecular level, abnormal differentiation is accompanied by increased expression of involucrin and decreased expression of loricrin in NS and psoriasis. Increased epidermal proteolysis associated with increased kallikrein-related peptidases (KLKs) expression is also observed in both NS and psoriatic epidermis. Furthermore, reduced expression of desmosomal proteins is observed in NS, but increased in psoriasis. Since desmosomal proteins are proteolytic substrates and control keratinocyte differentiation, their altered expression directly links epidermal proteolysis to differentiation. In conclusion, abnormal cellular differentiation and proteolysis are interconnected and underlie the pathology of NS, SD and psoriasis.


Epidermis, Keratinocytes, Corneocytes, Desmosomal proteins, Proteolysis

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