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J Invest Dermatol. 1998 Nov;111(5):784-90.

Recessive x-linked ichthyosis: role of cholesterol-sulfate accumulation in the barrier abnormality.

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Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Department of Dermatology, University of California, San Francisco 94121, USA.


Cholesterol sulfate is a multifunctional sterol metabolite, produced in large amounts in squamous keratinizing epithelia. Because patients with recessive x-linked ichthyosis display not only a 10-fold increase in cholesterol sulfate, but also a 50% reduction in cholesterol, we assessed here whether cholesterol sulfate accumulation and/or cholesterol deficiency produce abnormal barrier function in recessive x-linked ichthyosis. Patients with recessive x-linked ichthyosis display both an abnormal barrier under basal conditions, and a delay in barrier recovery after acute perturbation, which correlate with minor abnormalities in membrane structure and extensive lamellar-phase separation. Moreover, both the functional and the structural abnormalities were corrected by topical cholesterol. Yet, topical cholesterol sulfate produced both a barrier abnormality in intact skin and extracellular abnormalities in isolated stratum corneum, effects largely reversed by coapplications of cholesterol. Together, these results suggest that cholesterol sulfate accumulation rather than cholesterol deficiency is responsible for the barrier abnormality. Despite the apparent importance of cholesterol sulfate-to-cholesterol processing for normal barrier homeostasis, neither steroid sulfatase activity nor mRNA levels are upregulated following acute perturbations. These results demonstrate both a potential role for cholesterol sulfate-to-cholesterol processing in normal permeability barrier homeostasis, and that basal levels of steroid sulfatase are sufficient to accommodate acute insults to the permeability barrier.

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