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Hum Mol Genet. 2002 Nov 1;11(23):2867-75.

A null mutation in the cystatin M/E gene of ichq mice causes juvenile lethality and defects in epidermal cornification.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University Medical Center Nijmegen, PO Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands. p.zeeuwen@derma.azn.nl


Cystatin M/E (CST6 ), a new member of the cystatin gene family, has a restricted expression pattern in humans, which is largely limited to cutaneous epithelia. Although cystatin M/E possesses two distinct biochemical properties, being a cysteine proteinase inhibitor and a substrate for transglutaminase, its physiological function is unknown. Here we report the isolation and characterization of the mouse Cst6 orthologue and the assignment of the chromosomal localization to the proximal end of mouse chromosome 19. This region corresponds to the locus of the spontaneous harlequin ichthyosis (ichq) mouse mutation, for which no causative gene has been identified so far. We found a nonsense mutation in the Cst6 gene of BALB/cJ-ichq/+ mice, which precludes the synthesis of functional protein. Immunohistochemistry confirmed the absence of cystatin M/E at the protein level in ichq/ichq mice. Mice that are homozygous for two null alleles display a hyperplastic, hyperkeratotic epidermis and abnormal hair follicles, and die between 5 and 12 days of age. In wild-type mice, cystatin M/E was found in the stratum granulosum and in the infundibulum of the hair follicle indicating that the anatomical site in the skin where cystatin M/E is normally expressed correlates with the abnormalities at the tissue level in ichq/ichq mice. Our data provide evidence that cystatin M/E is required for viability and for correct formation of cornified layers in the epidermis and hair follicles. The ichq mouse mutation may serve as a model for human type 2 harlequin ichthyosis.

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