A role for connexins in inflammatory disorders of the epidermis

Steven Donnelly, Catherine S. Wright, Maurice A.M. Van Steensel, Malcolm B. Hodgins, Patricia E. Martin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The human skin is a complex organ that provides a protective barrier against fluid loss from within, and against assault from the external environment by chemicals (irritants), physical agents (mechanical forces, UV radiation), and biological pathogens (Proksch et al., 2008). Moreover, skin contributes to thermal regulation by sweating. The skin consists of three layers: the hypodermis, loose connective tissue that contains the subcutaneous fat; the dermis, a connective tissue (rich in collagens and glycosaminoglycans synthesized by dermal fibroblasts) containing blood supply and nerves, which supports the epidermis and the epidermal appendages (hair follicles sebaceous glands, and sweat glands); and the epidermis, the outer, stratified squamous epithelium of keratinocytes from which the appendages are derived and which forms the skin barrier (Figure 12.1). Other resident cells of the epidermis are melanocytes, responsible for skin pigmentation, Langerhans cells (antigen-presenting dendritic cells), Merkel cells and other sensory receptors and nerve endings. In normal epidermis, a steady state exists between production of new cells from keratinocytes resident in the basal layer and the loss of terminally differentiated cells from the skin surface (Blanpain and Fuchs, 2009). Histologically, four layers of keratinocyte differentiation can be recognized within the epidermis: the basal, spinous, granular, and stratum corneum layers. Each represents a stage in progression through the cell terminal differentiation program (Figure 12.1). Epidermal physical barrier function against water loss and penetration by chemical, physical, and biological agents resides mainly within the stratum corneum, although recent work suggests that a network of tight junctions within the granular layer may also be important in some circumstances (Kirschner et al., 2009). The specific immunological barrier function of the epidermis is largely associated with the Langerhans cells (Romani et al., 2006, 2010), although keratinocytes also seem to play a role, particularly in the innate immune response (Lai et al., 2010; Lai and Gallo, 2008).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConnexin Cell Communication Channels: Roles in the Immune System and Immunopathology
Subtitle of host publicationRoles in the Immune System and Immunopathology
EditorsE. Ovideo-Orta , B.R. Kwak, W.H. Evans
PublisherCRC Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781439862582
ISBN (Print)9781439862575
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • connexins
  • epidermis
  • inflammatory disorders
  • immune system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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