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The effect of the chain length distribution of free fatty acids on the mixing properties of stratum corneum model membranes

The stratum corneum (SC) plays a fundamental role in the barrier function of the skin. The SC consists of corneocytes embedded in a lipid matrix.

Oguri, M.; Gooris, G.S.; Bito, K.; Bouwstra, J.A.
30 April 2014

The main lipid classes in the lipid matrix are ceramides (CERs), cholesterol (CHOL) and free fatty acids (FFAs). The aim of this study was to examine the effect of the chain length of FFAs on the thermotropic phase behavior and mixing properties of SC lipids. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and Raman imaging spectroscopy were used to study the mixing properties using either protonated or deuterated FFAs. We selected SC model lipid mixtures containing only a single CER, CHOL and either a single FFA or a mixture of FFAs mimicking the FFA SC composition. The single CER consists of a sphingoid base with 18 carbon atoms and an acyl chain with a chain length of 24 carbon atoms. When using lignoceric acid (24 carbon atoms) or a mixture of FFAs, the CER and FFAs participated in mixed crystals, but hydration of the mixtures induced a slight phase separation between CER and FFA. The mixed crystalline structures did not phase separate during storage even up to a time period of 3months. When using palmitic acid (16 carbon atoms), a slight phase separation was observed between FFA and CER. This phase separation was clearly enhanced during hydration and storage. In conclusion, the thermotropic phase behavior and the mixing properties of the SC lipid mixtures were shown to strongly depend on the chain length and chain length distribution of FFAs, while hydration enhanced the phase separation.

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