Molecular Biology Reports

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 35–46

Molecular complexity of the cutaneous basement membrane zone

  • Jouni Uitto
  • Leena Pulkkinen

DOI: 10.1007/BF00357071

Cite this article as:
Uitto, J. & Pulkkinen, L. Molecular Biology Reports (1996) 23: 35. doi:10.1007/BF00357071


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.



basement membrane zone


epidermolysis bullosa


junctional EB


generalized atrophic benign EB


epidermolysis bullosa with muscular dystrophy


epidermolysis bullosa with pyloric atresia

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jouni Uitto
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Leena Pulkkinen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Biology, Jefferson Medical CollegeThomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Jefferson Medical CollegeThomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Section of Molecular Dermatology, Jefferson Institute of Molecular MedicineThomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous BiologyJefferson Medical CollegePhiladelphiaUSA

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