Filaggrin is characterized by a particularly high pH, due to a relatively high presence of histidine in its primary structure. It is also relatively low in the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine.
Filaggrin is essential for the regulation of epidermal homeostasis. Within the stratum corneum, filaggrin monomers can become incorporated into the lipid envelope, which is responsible for the skin barrier function. Alternatively, these proteins can interact with keratin intermediate filaments. Filaggrin undergoes further processing in the upper stratum corneum to release free amino acids that assist in water retention.
It has been shown that almost 50% of all severe cases of eczema may have at least one mutated filaggrin gene. R501X and 2284del4 are not generally found in non-Caucasian individuals, though novel mutations (3321delA and S2554X) that yield similar effects have been found in Japanese populations. Truncation mutations R501X and 2284del4 are the most common mutations in the Caucasian population, with 7 to 10% of the Caucasian population carrying at least one copy of these mutations.
The barrier defect seen in filaggrin null carriers also appears to lead to increased asthma susceptibility and exacerbations. Filaggrin deficiency is one of the top genome-wide genetic determinants of asthma, along with the variants found that regulate ORMDL3 expression.
In early infancy, the penetrance of filaggrin mutations may be increased by household exposure to cats.
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