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J Invest Dermatol. 1989 Feb;92(2):251-7.

Molecular models of the intercellular lipid lamellae in mammalian stratum corneum.

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  • 1Marshall Dermatology Research Laboratories, Department of Dermatology, University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City 52242.


Intercellular lipid lamellae in the stratum corneum constitute the barrier to water diffusion and may also play a role in cohesion between corneocytes. The lamellae arise from stacks of lamellar disks that are extruded from the granular cells and then fuse edge-to-edge to form sheets. It has been proposed that each lamellar disk is formed from a flattened vesicle, and therefore consists of two lipid bilayers in close apposition. In the present study, electron microscopic examination of ruthenium-tetroxide-fixed stratum corneum from mouse, pig, and human skin revealed that the double bilayer pattern persists in the intercellular lamellae. In addition, distinctive patterning of the intercellular lamellae has led us to propose novel molecular arrangements of the intercellular lipids. These include interlamellar sharing of lipid chains to produce lipid monolayers between pairs of bilayers. The pattern reflects the provenance of the intercellular lamellae from lamellar granule disks and the nonrandom orientation of the lamellar lipids.

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