The cornified envelope: a model of cell death in the skin

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2005 Apr;6(4):328-40. doi: 10.1038/nrm1619.


The epidermis functions as a barrier against the environment by means of several layers of terminally differentiated, dead keratinocytes - the cornified layer, which forms the endpoint of epidermal differentiation and death. The cornified envelope replaces the plasma membrane of differentiating keratinocytes and consists of keratins that are enclosed within an insoluble amalgam of proteins, which are crosslinked by transglutaminases and surrounded by a lipid envelope. New insights into the molecular mechanisms and the physiological endpoints of cornification are increasing our understanding of the pathological defects of this unique form of programmed cell death, which is associated with barrier malfunctions and ichthyosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Epidermis / enzymology
  • Epidermis / physiology*
  • Genetic Diseases, Inborn / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Transglutaminases / genetics
  • Transglutaminases / metabolism


  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Protein Precursors
  • filaggrin
  • loricrin
  • involucrin
  • Transglutaminases