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Dermatoendocrinol. 2011 Apr;3(2):84-90. doi: 10.4161/derm.3.2.15140. Epub 2011 Apr 1.

Acidification in the epidermis and the role of secretory phospholipases.

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  • 1Dermatology Department; University of California, San Francisco; and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center; San Francisco, CA USA.


The function of the epidermis is to form an effective barrier between the dry, external environment and the interior of the body. The barrier specifically resides in the extracellular lipid membranes of the stratum corneum (SC) and an acidic pH is necessary to maintain its competency against various insults. The purpose of this review is to explore the mechanisms which are postulated to contribute to the acidification of the stratum corneum, including both exogenous and endogenous sources. However, recent research as pointed to several endogenous mechanisms as the major source of acidification, including a sodium/proton pump (NHE1) and free fatty acid conversion from phospholipids by secretory phospholipase A(2) (sPLA(2)). sPLA(2) has been shown to play a central role in the formation of the SC "acid mantle" in the early maturation of the epidermis postnatally. Many aspects of this enzyme family are complex and still being elucidated in research and the most recent findings on the localization and functions of sPL A(2)-IB, -IIA, -IIC, -IID, -IIE, -IIF, -III, -V, -X and -XII in the epidermis are presented here. Given their role in inflammatory dermatoses, such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, understanding this complex enzyme family can lead to novel, life-changing therapies.


acidification; corneum; epidermis; pH; permeability barrier; secretory phospholipase; sodium proton pump; stratum

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