Sphingolipid activator proteins are required for epidermal permeability barrier formation

J Biol Chem. 1999 Apr 16;274(16):11038-45. doi: 10.1074/jbc.274.16.11038.


The epidermal permeability barrier is maintained by extracellular lipid membranes within the interstices of the stratum corneum. Ceramides, the major components of these multilayered membranes, derive in large part from hydrolysis of glucosylceramides mediated by stratum corneum beta-glucocerebrosidase (beta-GlcCerase). Prosaposin (pSAP) is a large precursor protein that is proteolytically cleaved to form four distinct sphingolipid activator proteins, which stimulate enzymatic hydrolysis of sphingolipids, including glucosylceramide. Recently, pSAP has been eliminated in a mouse model using targeted deletion and homologous recombination. In addition to the extracutaneous findings noted previously, our present data indicate that pSAP deficiency in the epidermis has significant consequences including: 1) an accumulation of epidermal glucosylceramides together with below normal levels of ceramides; 2) alterations in lipids that are bound by ester linkages to proteins of the cornified cell envelope; 3) a thickened stratum lucidum with evidence of scaling; and 4) a striking abnormality in lamellar membrane maturation within the interstices of the stratum corneum. Together, these results demonstrate that the production of pSAP, and presumably mature sphingolipid activator protein generation, is required for normal epidermal barrier formation and function. Moreover, detection of significant amounts of covalently bound omega-OH-GlcCer in pSAP-deficient epidermis suggests that deglucosylation to omega-OH-Cer is not a requisite step prior to covalent attachment of lipid to cornified envelope proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA Primers
  • Epidermis / enzymology
  • Epidermis / metabolism*
  • Epidermis / ultrastructure
  • Glucosylceramidase / metabolism
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Permeability
  • Saposins
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization
  • Sphingolipid Activator Proteins


  • DNA Primers
  • Glycoproteins
  • Psap protein, mouse
  • Saposins
  • Sphingolipid Activator Proteins
  • Glucosylceramidase