An update of the defensive barrier function of skin

Yonsei Med J. 2006 Jun 30;47(3):293-306. doi: 10.3349/ymj.2006.47.3.293.


Skin, as the outermost organ in the human body, continuously confronts the external environment and serves as a primary defense system. The protective functions of skin include UV-protection, anti-oxidant and antimicrobial functions. In addition to these protections, skin also acts as a sensory organ and the primary regulator of body temperature. Within these important functions, the epidermal permeability barrier, which controls the transcutaneous movement of water and other electrolytes, is probably the most important. This permeability barrier resides in the stratum corneum, a resilient layer composed of corneocytes and stratum corneum intercellular lipids. Since the first realization of the structural and biochemical diversities involved in the stratum corneum, a tremendous amount of work has been performed to elucidate its roles and functions in the skin, and in humans in general. The perturbation of the epidermal permeability barrier, previously speculated to be just a symptom involved in skin diseases, is currently considered to be a primary pathophysiologic factor for many skin diseases. In addition, much of the evidence provides support for the idea that various protective functions in the skin are closely related or even co-regulated. In this review, the recent achievements of skin researchers focusing on the functions of the epidermal permeability barrier and their importance in skin disease, such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, are introduced.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Permeability
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Skin Diseases / metabolism*
  • Skin Diseases / physiopathology
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena*