Netherton's syndrome: ultrastructure of the active lesion under retinoid therapy

Arch Dermatol Res. 1989;281(3):165-72. doi: 10.1007/BF00456387.


A young female patient, expressing the symptom triad of Netherton's syndrome, i.e., ichthyosis linearis circumflexa Comèl, trichorrhexis invaginata and other hair shaft defects, and atopic diathesis, has been treated successfully with the new retinoid preparation Etretin. Our electron microscopical study especially focused on the ultrastructural effect on the characteristic, active part of the skin lesions, which is only found within a narrow borderline just preceding the lesion's margin. In untreated skin, this part is characterized by dermal inflammation, immigrating inflammatory cells, and specific keratinization disturbances: synthesis of keratinization proteins is suppressed, serum exudates invade the epidermis, either filling the intercellular spaces of the upper spinous and the granular layer as finely granular, amorphous material, or they are partly phagocytosed and lie within intracellular, round-oval inclusions. The portions of the lesions lying towards the center are unspecific and represent recovery stages, ultrastructurally resembling stages of normal wound repair. Oral therapy with Etretin did not heal the basic defect, but drastically reduced exoserosis and the deposition of intra- and extracellular material. Keratinization seemed to normalize. The condition of the hair was also improved.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acitretin
  • Adolescent
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ichthyosis / drug therapy
  • Ichthyosis / pathology*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Skin / ultrastructure*
  • Syndrome
  • Tretinoin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Tretinoin / therapeutic use


  • Tretinoin
  • Acitretin