Scaffolding proteins in the development and maintenance of the epidermal permeability barrier
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The skin of mammals and other terrestrial vertebrates protects the organism against the external environment, preventing heat, water and electrolyte loss, as well as entry of chemicals and pathogens. Impairments in the epidermal permeability barrier function are associated with the genesis and/or progression of a variety of pathological conditions, including genetic inflammatory diseases, microbial and viral infections, and photodamage induced by UV radiation. In mammals, the outside-in epidermal permeability barrier is provided by the joint action of the outermost cornified layer, together with assembled tight junctions in granular keratinocytes found in the layers underneath. Tight junctions serve as both outside-in and inside-out barriers, and impede paracellular movements of ions, water, macromolecules and microorganisms. At the molecular level, tight junctions consist of integral membrane proteins that form an extracellular seal between adjacent cells, and associate with cytoplasmic scaffold proteins that serve as links with the actin cytoskeleton. In this review, we address the roles that scaffold proteins play specifically in the establishment and maintenance of the epidermal permeability barrier, and how various pathologies alter or impair their functions.