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1.  Compound Heterozygous Desmoplakin Mutations Result in a Phenotype with a Combination of Myocardial, Skin, Hair, and Enamel Abnormalities 
Desmoplakin (DP) anchors the intermediate filament cytoskeleton to the desmosomal cadherins and thereby confers structural stability to tissues. In this study, we present a patient with extensive mucocutaneous blisters, epidermolytic palmoplantar keratoderma, nail dystrophy, enamel dysplasia, and sparse woolly hair. The patient died at the age of 14 years from undiagnosed cardiomyopathy. The skin showed hyperplasia and acantholysis in the mid- and lower epidermal layers, whereas the heart showed extensive fibrosis and fibrofatty replacement in both ventricles. Immunofluorescence microscopy showed a reduction in the C-terminal domain of DP in the skin and oral mucosa. Sequencing of the DP gene showed undescribed mutations in the maternal and paternal alleles. Both mutations affected exon 24 encoding the C-terminal domain. The paternal mutation, c.6310delA, leads to a premature stop codon. The maternal mutation, c.7964 C to A, results in a substitution of an aspartic acid for a conserved alanine residue at amino acid 2655 (A2655D). Structural modeling indicated that this mutation changes the electrostatic potential of the mutated region of DP, possibly altering functions that depend on intermolecular interactions. To conclude, we describe a combination of DP mutation phenotypes affecting the skin, heart, hair, and teeth. This patient case emphasizes the importance of heart examination of patients with desmosomal genodermatoses.
PMCID: PMC4246507  PMID: 19924139
3.  Targeting epidermal lipids for treatment of Mendelian disorders of cornification 
Inherited ichthyoses or Mendelian disorders of cornification (MeDOC) are clinically heterogeneous disorders with high unmet therapeutic needs, which are characterized by skin hyperkeratosis and scaling. Some MeDOC types are associated with defects of the epidermal lipid metabolism, resulting in perturbed barrier permeability and subsequent epidermal hyperplasia, hyperkeratosis and inflammation. An example is the CHILD (congenital hemidysplasia with ichthyosiform nevus and limb defects) syndrome, an X-linked dominant multisystem MeDOC caused by mutations in the NSDHL (NAD(P)H steroid dehydrogenase-like protein) gene, which is involved in the distal cholesterol biosynthetic pathway. The skin manifestations of the CHILD syndrome have been attributed to two major mechanisms: deficiency of cholesterol, probably influencing the proper corneocyte membrane formation, and toxic accumulation of aberrant steroid precursors.
Here we addressed the efficacy of an ointment containing cholesterol and simvastatin, an agent inhibiting endogenous cholesterol synthesis in a compassionate-use treatment of three patients with CHILD syndrome. To test the specificity of this therapeutic approach, we applied the same topical treatment to two patients with other types of MeDOC with disturbed skin lipid metabolism.
The therapy with simvastatin and cholesterol was highly effective and well-tolerated by the CHILD syndrome patients; only lesions in the body folds represented a therapeutic challenge. No improvement was noted in the patients with other types of MeDOC.
This therapy is inexpensive and accessible to every patient with CHILD syndrome, because both simvastatin and cholesterol are available worldwide. Our data provide initial evidence of the specificity of the therapeutic effect of the simvastatin-cholesterol ointment in CHILD syndrome in comparison to other types of MeDOC.
PMCID: PMC3975448  PMID: 24607067
Cholesterol; Mosaicism; Ichthyosis; Simvastatin; CHILD nevus; NSDHL mutations
4.  Transmembrane Collagen XVII Modulates Integrin Dependent Keratinocyte Migration via PI3K/Rac1 Signaling 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87263.
The hemidesmosomal transmembrane component collagen XVII (ColXVII) plays an important role in the anchorage of the epidermis to the underlying basement membrane. However, this adhesion protein seems to be also involved in the regulation of keratinocyte migration, since its expression in these cells is strongly elevated during reepithelialization of acute wounds and in the invasive front of squamous cell carcinoma, while its absence in ColXVII-deficient keratinocytes leads to altered cell motility. Using a genetic model of murine Col17a1−/− keratinocytes we elucidated ColXVII mediated signaling pathways in cell adhesion and migration. Col17a1−/− keratinocytes exhibited increased spreading on laminin 332 and accelerated, but less directed cell motility. These effects were accompanied by increased expression of the integrin subunits β4 and β1. The migratory phenotype, as evidenced by formation of multiple unstable lamellipodia, was associated with enhanced phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) activity. Dissection of the signaling pathway uncovered enhanced phosphorylation of the β4 integrin subunit and the focal adhesion kinase (FAK) as activators of PI3K. This resulted in elevated Rac1 activity as a downstream consequence. These results provide mechanistic evidence that ColXVII coordinates keratinocyte adhesion and directed motility by interfering integrin dependent PI3K activation and by stabilizing lamellipodia at the leading edge of reepithelializing wounds and in invasive squamous cell carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC3914815  PMID: 24505282
5.  Laminin 332 in junctional epidermolysis bullosa 
Cell Adhesion & Migration  2013;7(1):135-141.
Laminin 332 is an essential component of the dermal-epidermal junction, a highly specialized basement membrane zone that attaches the epidermis to the dermis and thereby provides skin integrity and resistance to external mechanical forces. Mutations in the LAMA3, LAMB3 and LAMC2 genes that encode the three constituent polypeptide chains, α3, β3 and γ2, abrogate or perturb the functions of laminin 332. The phenotypic consequences are diminished dermal-epidermal adhesion and, as clinical symptoms, skin fragility and mechanically induced blistering. The disorder is designated as junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB). This article delineates the signs and symptoms of the different forms of JEB, the mutational spectrum, genotype-phenotype correlations as well as perspectives for future molecular therapies.
PMCID: PMC3544777  PMID: 23076207
skin fragility; blistering; hemidesmosome; granulation tissue; basement membrane
6.  Collagen VII plays a dual role in wound healing 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2013;123(8):3498-3509.
Although a host of intracellular signals is known to contribute to wound healing, the role of the cell microenvironment in tissue repair remains elusive. Here we employed 2 different mouse models of genetic skin fragility to assess the role of the basement membrane protein collagen VII (COL7A1) in wound healing. COL7A1 secures the attachment of the epidermis to the dermis, and its mutations cause a human skin fragility disorder coined recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB) that is associated with a constant wound burden. We show that COL7A1 is instrumental for skin wound closure by 2 interconnected mechanisms. First, COL7A1 was required for re-epithelialization through organization of laminin-332 at the dermal-epidermal junction. Its loss perturbs laminin-332 organization during wound healing, which in turn abrogates strictly polarized expression of integrin α6β4 in basal keratinocytes and negatively impacts the laminin-332/integrin α6β4 signaling axis guiding keratinocyte migration. Second, COL7A1 supported dermal fibroblast migration and regulates their cytokine production in the granulation tissue. These findings, which were validated in human wounds, identify COL7A1 as a critical player in physiological wound healing in humans and mice and may facilitate development of therapeutic strategies not only for RDEB, but also for other chronic wounds.
PMCID: PMC3726167  PMID: 23867500
8.  Rat Model for Dominant Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa: Glycine Substitution Reduces Collagen VII Stability and Shows Gene-Dosage Effect 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64243.
Dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa, a severely disabling hereditary skin fragility disorder, is caused by mutations in the gene coding for collagen VII, a specialized adhesion component of the dermal-epidermal junction zone. Both recessive and dominant forms are known; the latter account for about 40% of cases. Patients with dominant dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa exhibit a spectrum of symptoms ranging from mild localized to generalized skin manifestations. Individuals with the same mutation can display substantial phenotypic variance, emphasizing the role of modifying genes in this disorder. The etiology of dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa has been known for around two decades; however, important pathogenetic questions such as involvement of modifier genes remain unanswered and a causative therapy has yet to be developed. Much of the failure to make progress in these areas is due to the lack of suitable animal models that capture all aspects of this complex monogenetic disorder. Here, we report the first rat model of dominant dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa. Affected rats carry a spontaneous glycine to aspartic acid substitution, p.G1867D, within the main structural domain of collagen VII. This confers dominant-negative interference of protein folding and decreases the stability of mutant collagen VII molecules and their polymers, the anchoring fibrils. The phenotype comprises fragile and blister-prone skin, scarring and nail dystrophy. The model recapitulates all signs of the human disease with complete penetrance. Homozygous carriers of the mutation are more severely affected than heterozygous ones, demonstrating for the first time a gene-dosage effect of mutated alleles in dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa. This novel viable and workable animal model for dominant dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa will be valuable for addressing molecular disease mechanisms, effects of modifying genes, and development of novel molecular therapies for patients with dominantly transmitted skin disease.
PMCID: PMC3662756  PMID: 23717576
9.  Global remodelling of cellular microenvironment due to loss of collagen VII 
Loss of collagen VII causes recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa. Quantitative proteomics analysis of the extracellular matrix and secretome of human fibroblasts derived from pathologically altered skin reveals a global remodelling of the cellular microenvironment.
A global analysis of the microenvironment of human skin fibroblasts was carried out to reveal disease-related alterations in the extracellular proteome.The loss of collagen VII causes a deregulation of the basement membrane and dermal matrix proteome.Post-translational modifications of secreted proteins were altered in fibroblasts from recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa samples.Metalloproteases displayed reduced activity and turnover in collagen VII-deficient cells.
The mammalian cellular microenvironment is shaped by soluble factors and structural components, the extracellular matrix, providing physical support, regulating adhesion and signalling. A global, quantitative mass spectrometry strategy, combined with bioinformatics data processing, was developed to assess proteome differences in the microenvironment of primary human fibroblasts. We studied secreted proteins of fibroblasts from normal and pathologically altered skin and their post-translational modifications. The influence of collagen VII, an important structural component, which is lost in genetic skin fragility, was used as model. Loss of collagen VII had a global impact on the cellular microenvironment and was associated with proteome alterations highly relevant for disease pathogenesis including decrease in basement membrane components, increase in dermal matrix proteins, TGF-β and metalloproteases, but not higher protease activity. The definition of the proteome of fibroblast microenvironment and its plasticity in health and disease identified novel disease mechanisms and potential targets of intervention.
PMCID: PMC3658272  PMID: 23591773
disease proteomics; extracellular matrix (ECM); mass spectrometry; MMP14; primary human fibroblasts
10.  Epidermal ADAM17 maintains the skin barrier by regulating EGFR ligand–dependent terminal keratinocyte differentiation 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2012;209(6):1105-1119.
EGFR requires ADAM17 activity to preserve skin barrier homeostasis.
ADAM17 (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase 17) is ubiquitously expressed and cleaves membrane proteins, such as epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) ligands, l-selectin, and TNF, from the cell surface, thus regulating responses to tissue injury and inflammation. However, little is currently known about its role in skin homeostasis. We show that mice lacking ADAM17 in keratinocytes (A17ΔKC) have a normal epidermal barrier and skin architecture at birth but develop pronounced defects in epidermal barrier integrity soon after birth and develop chronic dermatitis as adults. The dysregulated expression of epidermal differentiation proteins becomes evident 2 d after birth, followed by reduced transglutaminase (TGM) activity, transepidermal water loss, up-regulation of the proinflammatory cytokine IL-36α, and inflammatory immune cell infiltration. Activation of the EGFR was strongly reduced in A17ΔKC skin, and topical treatment of A17ΔKC mice with recombinant TGF-α significantly improved TGM activity and decreased skin inflammation. Finally, we show that mice lacking the EGFR in keratinocytes (EgfrΔKC) closely resembled A17ΔKC mice. Collectively, these results identify a previously unappreciated critical role of the ADAM17–EGFR signaling axis in maintaining the homeostasis of the postnatal epidermal barrier and suggest that this pathway could represent a good target for treatment of epidermal barrier defects.
PMCID: PMC3371728  PMID: 22565824
11.  Integrin α3 Mutations with Kidney, Lung, and Skin Disease 
The New England Journal of Medicine  2012;366(16):1508-1514.
Integrin α3 is a transmembrane integrin receptor subunit that mediates signals between the cells and their microenvironment. We identified three patients with homozygous mutations in the integrin α3 gene that were associated with disrupted basement-membrane structures and compromised barrier functions in kidney, lung, and skin. The patients had a multiorgan disorder that included congenital nephrotic syndrome, interstitial lung disease, and epidermolysis bullosa. The renal and respiratory features predominated, and the lung involvement accounted for the lethal course of the disease. Although skin fragility was mild, it provided clues to the diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3341404  PMID: 22512483
12.  Prevalence of collagen VII-specific autoantibodies in patients with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases 
BMC Immunology  2012;13:16.
Autoimmunity to collagen VII is typically associated with the skin blistering disease epidermolysis bullosa acquisita (EBA), but also occurs occasionally in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus or inflammatory bowel disease. The aim of our present study was to develop an accurate immunoassay for assessing the presence of autoantibodies against collagen VII in large cohorts of patients and healthy donors.
Based on in silico antigenic analysis and previous wetlab epitope mapping data, we designed a chimeric collagen VII construct containing all collagen VII epitopes with higher antigenicity. ELISA was performed with sera from patients with EBA (n = 50), Crohn's disease (CD, n = 50), ulcerative colitis (UC, n = 50), bullous pemphigoid (BP, n = 76), and pemphigus vulgaris (PV, n = 42) and healthy donors (n = 245).
By ELISA, the receiver operating characteristics analysis yielded an area under the curve of 0.98 (95% CI: 0.9638-1.005), allowing to set the cut-off at 0.32 OD at a calculated specificity of 98% and a sensitivity of 94%. Running the optimized test showed that serum IgG autoantibodies from 47 EBA (94%; 95% CI: 87.41%-100%), 2 CD (4%; 95% CI: 0%-9.43%), 8 UC (16%; 95% CI: 5.8%-26%), 2 BP (2.63%; 95% CI: 0%-6.23%), and 4 PV (9.52%; 95% CI: 0%-18.4%) patients as well as from 4 (1.63%; 95% CI: 0%-3.21%) healthy donors reacted with the chimeric protein. Further analysis revealed that in 34%, 37%, 16% and 100% of sera autoantibodies of IgG1, IgG2, IgG3, and IgG4 isotype, respectively, recognized the recombinant autoantigen.
Using a chimeric protein, we developed a new sensitive and specific ELISA to detect collagen specific antibodies. Our results show a low prevalence of collagen VII-specific autoantibodies in inflammatory bowel disease, pemphigus and bullous pemphigoid. Furthermore, we show that the autoimmune response against collagen VII is dominated by IgG4 autoantibodies. The new immunoassay should prove a useful tool for clinical and translational research and should improve the routine diagnosis and disease monitoring in diseases associated with collagen VII-specific autoimmunity.
PMCID: PMC3368718  PMID: 22471736
13.  Revertant mosaicism in a human skin fragility disorder results from slipped mispairing and mitotic recombination 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2012;122(5):1742-1746.
Spontaneous gene repair, also called revertant mosaicism, has been documented in several genetic disorders involving organs that undergo self-regeneration, including the skin. Genetic reversion may occur through different mechanisms, and in a single individual, the mutation can be repaired in various ways. Here we describe a disseminated pattern of revertant mosaicism observed in 6 patients with Kindler syndrome (KS), a genodermatosis caused by loss of kindlin-1 (encoded by FERMT1) and clinically characterized by patchy skin pigmentation and atrophy. All patients presented duplication mutations (c.456dupA and c.676dupC) in FERMT1, and slipped mispairing in direct nucleotide repeats was identified as the reversion mechanism in all investigated revertant skin spots. The sequence around the mutations demonstrated high propensity to mutations, favoring both microinsertions and microdeletions. Additionally, in some revertant patches, mitotic recombination generated areas with homozygous normal keratinocytes. Restoration of kindlin-1 expression led to clinically and structurally normal skin. Since loss of kindlin-1 severely impairs keratinocyte proliferation, we predict that revertant cells have a selective advantage that allows their clonal expansion and, consequently, the improvement of the skin condition.
PMCID: PMC3336993  PMID: 22466645
14.  The Flavonoid Luteolin Inhibits Fcγ-Dependent Respiratory Burst in Granulocytes, but Not Skin Blistering in a New Model of Pemphigoid in Adult Mice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31066.
Bullous pemphigoid is an autoimmune blistering skin disease associated with autoantibodies against the dermal-epidermal junction. Passive transfer of antibodies against BP180/collagen (C) XVII, a major hemidesmosomal pemphigoid antigen, into neonatal mice results in dermal-epidermal separation upon applying gentle pressure to their skin, but not in spontaneous skin blistering. In addition, this neonatal mouse model precludes treatment and observation of diseased animals beyond 2–3 days. Therefore, in the present study we have developed a new disease model in mice reproducing the spontaneous blistering and the chronic course characteristic of the human condition. Adult mice were pre-immunized with rabbit IgG followed by injection of BP180/CXVII rabbit IgG. Mice pre-immunized against rabbit IgG and injected 6 times every second day with the BP180/CXVII-specific antibodies (n = 35) developed spontaneous sustained blistering of the skin, while mice pre-immunized and then treated with normal rabbit IgG (n = 5) did not. Blistering was associated with IgG and complement C3 deposits at the epidermal basement membrane and recruitment of inflammatory cells, and was partly dependent on Ly-6G-positive cells. We further used this new experimental model to investigate the therapeutic potential of luteolin, a plant flavonoid with potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties and good safety profile, in experimental BP. Luteolin inhibited the Fcγ-dependent respiratory burst in immune complex-stimulated granulocytes and the autoantibody-induced dermal-epidermal separation in skin cryosections, but was not effective in suppressing the skin blistering in vivo. These studies establish a robust animal model that will be a useful tool for dissecting the mechanisms of blister formation and will facilitate the development of more effective therapeutic strategies for managing pemphigoid diseases.
PMCID: PMC3273480  PMID: 22328927
15.  Development of an ELISA for sensitive and specific detection of IgA autoantibodies against BP180 in pemphigoid diseases 
Pemphigoids are rare diseases associated with IgG, IgE and IgA autoantibodies against collagen XVII/BP180. An entity of the pemphigoid group is the lamina lucida-type of linear IgA disease (IgA pemphigoid) characterized by IgA autoantibodies against BP180. While for the detection of IgG and IgE autoantibodies specific to collagen XVII several ELISA systems have been established, no quantitative immunoassay has been yet developed for IgA autoantibodies. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to develop an ELISA to detect IgA autoantibodies against collagen XVII in the sera of patients with pemphigoids.
We expressed a soluble recombinant form of the collagen XVII ectodomain in mammalian cells. Reactivity of IgA autoantibodies from patients with IgA pemphigoid was assessed by immunofluorescence microscopy and immunoblot analysis. ELISA test conditions were determined by chessboard titration experiments. The sensitivity, specificity and the cut-off were determined by receiver-operating characteristics analysis.
The optimized assay was carried out using sera from patients with IgA pemphigoid (n = 30) and healthy donors (n = 105). By receiver operating characteristics (ROC) analysis, an area under the curve of 0.993 was calculated, indicating an excellent discriminatory capacity. Thus, a sensitivity and specificity of 83.3% and 100%, respectively, was determined for a cut-off point of 0.48. As additional control groups, sera from patients with bullous pemphigoid (n = 31) and dermatitis herpetiformis (n = 50), a disease associated with IgA autoantibodies against epidermal transglutaminase, were tested. In 26% of bullous pemphigoid patients, IgA autoantibodies recognized the ectodomain of collagen XVII. One of 50 (2%) of dermatitis herpetiformis patients sera slightly topped the cut-off value.
We developed the first ELISA for the specific and sensitive detection of serum IgA autoantibodies specific to collagen XVII in patients with pemphigoids. This immunoassay should prove a useful tool for clinical and translational research and should essentially improve the diagnosis and disease monitoring of patients with IgA pemphigoid. Moreover, our findings strongly suggest that IgA pemphigoid and IgG bullous pemphigoid represent two ends of the clinical spectrum of an immunological loss of tolerance against components of hemidesmosomes, which is mediated by both IgG and IgA autoantibodies.
PMCID: PMC3126693  PMID: 21619684
17.  Collagen XVII and BPAG1 Expression in the Retina: Evidence for an Anchoring Complex in the Central Nervous System 
The ectoderm gives rise not only to the skin but also to the entire CNS. This common embryonic lineage suggests that some molecular isoforms might serve analogous functions in both tissues. Indeed, not only are laminins important components of dermal adhesion mechanisms, but they also regulate some aspects of synaptic development in both the CNS and the PNS. In the skin, laminins are part of a hemidesmosome complex essential for basal keratinocyte adhesion that includes collagen XVII (BP180) and BPAG1 (dystonin/BP230). Here, we show that CNS neurons also express collagen XVII and BPAG1 and that these molecules are expressed in the adult and developing retina. In the retina, isoforms of collagen XVII and BPAG1 are colocalized with laminins at photoreceptor synapses and around photoreceptor outer segments; both molecules are expressed by rods, whereas cones express collagen XVII but not BPAG1. Moreover, biochemical data demonstrate that collagen XVII complexes with retinal laminins. We propose that collagen XVII and BPAG1 isoforms may help to anchor elements of the rod photoreceptor cytomatrix to the extracellular matrix.
PMCID: PMC2925832  PMID: 15880472
extracellular matrix; synaptogenesis; photoreceptor; CNS development; hemidesmosomes
18.  A Novel Marker of Tissue Junctions, Collagen XXII* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2004;279(21):22514-22521.
Here we describe a novel specific component of tissue junctions, collagen XXII. It was first identified by screening an EST data base and subsequently expressed as a recombinant protein and characterized as an authentic tissue component. The COL22A1 gene on human chromosome 8q24.2 encodes a collagen that structurally belongs to the FACIT protein family (fibril-associated collagens with interrupted triple helices). Collagen XXII exhibits a striking restricted localization at tissue junctions such as the myotendinous junction in skeletal and heart muscle, the articular cartilage-synovial fluid junction, or the border between the anagen hair follicle and the dermis in the skin. It is deposited in the basement membrane zone of the myotendinous junction and the hair follicle and associated with the extrafibrillar matrix in cartilage. In situ hybridization of myotendinous junctions revealed that muscle cells produce collagen XXII, and functional tests demonstrated that collagen XXII acts as a cell adhesion ligand for skin epithelial cells and fibroblasts. This novel gene product, collagen XXII, is the first specific extracellular matrix protein present only at tissue junctions.
PMCID: PMC2925840  PMID: 15016833
19.  A hypomorphic mouse model of dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa reveals mechanisms of disease and response to fibroblast therapy 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2008;118(5):1669-1679.
Dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (DEB) is a severe skin fragility disorder associated with trauma-induced blistering, progressive soft tissue scarring, and increased risk of skin cancer. DEB is caused by mutations in type VII collagen. In this study, we describe the generation of a collagen VII hypomorphic mouse that serves as an immunocompetent animal model for DEB. These mice expressed collagen VII at about 10% of normal levels, and their phenotype closely resembled characteristics of severe human DEB, including mucocutaneous blistering, nail dystrophy, and mitten deformities of the extremities. The oral blistering experienced by these mice resulted in growth retardation, and repeated blistering led to excessive induction of tissue repair, causing TGF-β1–mediated contractile fibrosis generated by myofibroblasts and pseudosyndactyly in the extremities. Intradermal injection of WT fibroblasts resulted in neodeposition of collagen VII and functional restoration of the dermal-epidermal junction. Treated areas were also resistant to induced frictional stress. In contrast, untreated areas of the same mouse showed dermal-epidermal separation following induced stress. These data demonstrate that fibroblast-based treatment can be used to treat DEB in a mouse model and suggest that this approach may be effective in the development of clinical therapeutic regimens for patients with DEB.
PMCID: PMC2276400  PMID: 18382769

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