Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common inflammatory skin disorder, characterized by skin barrier defects and enhanced allergen priming. Null mutations in the filaggrin gene (FLG) are strongly associated with moderate to severe AD, but the pathways linking barrier dysfunction and cutaneous inflammation are still largely unknown. AIM: To assess alteration of endogenous cysteine protease activity in FLG-deficient keratinocytes, and to determine whether the alteration in cysteine protease activity affects epidermal barrier function and associated gene and protein expression. METHODS: We established a stable FLG knockdown cell line, and reconstructed epidermal equivalents in vitro. Barrier function of the reconstructed epidermis, the barrier-associated genes and proteins, and the activity of endogenous cysteine proteases were tested. Inhibitors of cysteine proteases were used to further evaluate the role of endogenous cysteine proteases in epidermal barrier function. RESULTS: FLG knockdown induced impaired epidermal barrier function. Microarray, western blotting and fluorescence staining showed reduced expression of K10, ZO-1, E-cadherin, claudin-1 and occludin in FLG knockdown keratinocytes. Compared with cysteine protease activity in control cells, protease activity was dramatically enhanced in FLG knockdown keratinocytes. Furthermore, administration of cysteine protease inhibitors significantly recovered expression of K10 and tight junction proteins, and the barrier defect induced by FLG deficiency. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first observation of elevated endogenous cysteine protease activity in FLG-deficient keratinocytes, which may play an important role in impaired barrier function in AD skin. Modulation of cysteine protease activity might be a novel therapeutic approach for AD treatment.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin exp dermatol

Publication Date





622 - 631


Cell Line, Cell Proliferation, Cysteine Proteases, Dermatitis, Atopic, Humans, Intermediate Filament Proteins, Keratinocytes, Keratins, Skin Absorption