The composition and organization of stratum corneum lipids play an essential role in skin barrier function. Ceramides represent essential components of this lipid matrix; however, the importance of the individual structural features in ceramides is not fully understood. To probe the structure-permeability relationships in ceramides, we prepared analogs of N-lignoceroylsphingosine with shortened sphingosine (15 and 12 carbons) and acyl chains (2, 4 and 6 carbons) and studied their behavior in skin and in model lipid membranes. Ceramide analogs with pentadecasphingosine (15C) chains were more barrier-perturbing than 12C- and 18C-sphingosine ceramides; the greatest effects were found with 4 to 6C acyls (up to 15 times higher skin permeability compared to an untreated control and up to 79 times higher permeability of model stratum corneum lipid membranes compared to native very long-chain ceramides). Infrared spectroscopy using deuterated lipids and X-ray powder diffraction showed surprisingly similar behavior of the short ceramide membranes in terms of lipid chain order and packing, phase transitions and domain formation. The high- and low-permeability membranes differed in their amide I band shape and lamellar organization. These skin and membrane permeabilization properties of some short ceramides may be explored, for example, for the rational design of permeation enhancers for transdermal drug delivery.
Školová, B., Janůšová, B., & Vávrová, K. (2016). Ceramides with a pentadecasphingosine chain and short acyls have strong permeabilization effects on skin and model lipid membranes. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes, 1858(2), 220–232. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbamem.2015.11.019