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J Invest Dermatol. 2005 Oct;125(4):790-7.

Extracellular pH Controls NHE1 expression in epidermis and keratinocytes: implications for barrier repair.

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Dermatology and Medical Services (Metabolism), VA Medical Center, San Francisco, California 94121, USA.


We have previously shown that the Na+/H+ antiporter (NHE1) is an essential endogenous pathway responsible for stratum corneum (SC) acidification. Since the epidermis must re-establish its epidermal barrier after acute barrier perturbations, we asked whether the NHE1 was, in turn, regulated by changes in barrier status. We found that in vivo epidermal NHE1 expression was upregulated within hours of barrier disruption. We next asked whether NHE1 was regulated by barrier status per se, or by the SC alkalinization that accompanies barrier perturbation. NHE1 was upregulated by alkalinizing SC pH, whereas this antiporter was downregulated by acidifying SC pH, independent of changes in barrier status. Moreover, acidifying SC pH overrode the effects of barrier break in regulating NHE1 expression, suggesting that SC alkalinization is the major stimulus for increased NHE1 expression. Finally, we confirmed that the keratinocyte NHE1 antiporter is regulated by extracellular pH independent of barrier status, by demonstrating that NHE1 was upregulated in cultured keratinocytes exposed to pH 8.3 medium and downregulated in cultured keratinocytes exposed to pH 6.3 medium. These data suggest that the keratinocyte NHE1 is regulated by extracellular pH. SC barrier break also upregulates NHE1 expression, but this response seems to be mediated by concomitant changes in SC pH.

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