Several mutations in the ABCA12 gene are known to cause harlequin type ichthyosis. Most of these mutations are predicted to lead to an absence of ABCA12 protein or the production of an extremely small version of the protein that cannot transport lipids properly. A loss of functional ABCA12 protein causes numerous problems with the development of the epidermis before and after birth. Abnormalities in lipid transport prevent the skin from forming an effective barrier and result in the hard, thick scales characteristic of harlequin ichthyosis.
Mutations in the ABCA12 gene also cause another severe skin disorder, lamellar ichthyosis type 2. People with this disorder have red, scaly, plate-like skin covering most of their bodies. The ABCA12 mutations that cause this disorder substitute one amino acid (a building block of proteins) for another amino acid in the ABCA12 protein. These mutations almost always occur in an important functional region of the protein (the region that binds to ATP, a molecule that supplies energy for chemical reactions). Changes in the structure of the ABCA12 protein likely disrupt its ability to transport lipids, which affects the development of skin before and after birth.
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