Epidermolysis bullosa (EB) simplex is a rare genetic condition typified by superficial bullous lesions that result from frictional trauma to the skin. Most cases are due to dominantly acting mutations in either keratin 14 (K14) or K5, the type I and II intermediate filament (IF) proteins tasked with forming a pancytoplasmic network of 10-nm filaments in basal keratinocytes of the epidermis and in other stratified epithelia. Defects in K5/K14 filament network architecture cause basal keratinocytes to become fragile and account for their trauma-induced rupture. Here we review how laboratory investigations centered on keratin biology have deepened our understanding of the etiology and pathophysiology of EB simplex and revealed novel avenues for its therapy.
Pierre A. Coulombe, Michelle L. Kerns, Elaine Fuchs