Genetic syndromes with skin fragility represent a heterogeneous group of very rare disorders caused by mutations in genes encoding proteins or protein subunits important for the mechanical resistance of keratinocytes and for cell-cell or cell-extracellular matrix adhesion. The common symptoms are skin blistering or peeling, with various degrees of severity and distribution, ranging from localized to generalized forms. Associated features include involvement of skin annexes, mucous membranes, teeth, muscles or the digestive tract. Morphological investigation of skin samples provides evidence for the tissue level of blister formation, while immunostainings may reveal defective proteins, providing clues concerning the genetic origin of the disease. Extensive mutation analysis and subsequent identification of new gene defects provide accurate diagnostics, and lead to better understanding of the functions of the respective proteins, with the potential for new therapeutic strategies. © 2006 Japanese Society for Investigative Dermatology.
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