Article

Molecular Biology Reports

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 35-46

First online:

Molecular complexity of the cutaneous basement membrane zone

  • Jouni UittoAffiliated withDepartment of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology, Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson UniversityDepartment of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson UniversitySection of Molecular Dermatology, Jefferson Institute of Molecular Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University
  • , Leena PulkkinenAffiliated withDepartment of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology, Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson UniversityDepartment of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson UniversitySection of Molecular Dermatology, Jefferson Institute of Molecular Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University

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Abstract

Ultrastructural examination of the cutaneous basement membrane zone (BMZ) reveals the presence of several attachment structures, which are critical for integrity of the stable association of epidermis and dermis. These include hemidesmosomes which extend from the intracellular compartment of the basal keratinocyte to the underlying basement membrane where they complex with anchoring filaments, thread-like structures traversing the lamina lucida. At the lower portion of dermal-epidermal attachment zone, anchoring fibrils extend from the lamina densa to the papillary dermis, where they associate with basement membrane-like structures, known as anchoring plaques. Molecular cloning of the cutaneous BMZ components has allowed elucidation of the structural features of the proteins which constitute these attachment structures. Specifically, hemidesmosomes have been shown to consist of at least four distinct proteins. The intracellular hemidesmosomal inner plaque is comprised of the 230-kD bullous pemphigoid antigen (BPAG1), and plectin, a high-molecular weight cytomatrix protein, encoded by the corresponding gene, PLEC1. The transmembrane component of the hemidesmosomes consists of the 180-kD bullous pemphigoid antigen (BPAG2), a collagenous protein also known as type XVII collagen (COL17A1), as well as of the basal keratinocyte-specific integrin α6β4. The anchoring filaments consist predominantly of laminin 5 with three constitutive subunit polypeptides, the α3, β3 and γ2 chains, which is associated with laminin 6 with the chain composition α3, β1 and γ1. Also associated with anchoring filaments is a novel protein, ladinin, which serves as autoantigen in the linear IgA disease, and the corresponding gene, LAD1, has been mapped to human chromosome 1. Finally, the major, if not the exclusive, component of anchoring fibrils is type VII collagen, encoded by the gene (COL7A1) which consists of 118 distinct exons, the largest number of exons in any gene published thus far. Collectively, the cutaneous basement membrane zone is a complex continuum of macromolecules which form a network providing the stable association of the epidermis to the underlying dermis. Thus, genetic lesions resulting in abnormalities in any part of this network could result in a blistering skin disease, such as epidermolysis bullosa.