Netherton syndrome is a disorder that affects the skin, hair, and immune system. Newborns with Netherton syndrome have skin that is red and scaly (ichthyosiform erythroderma), and the skin may leak fluid. Some affected infants are born with a tight, clear sheath covering their skin called a collodion membrane. This membrane is usually shed during the first few weeks of life. Because newborns with this disorder are missing the protection provided by normal skin, they are at risk of becoming dehydrated and developing infections in the skin or throughout the body (sepsis), which can be life-threatening. Affected babies may also fail to grow and gain weight at the expected rate (failure to thrive). The health of older children and adults with Netherton syndrome usually improves, although they often remain underweight and of short stature.
Netherton syndrome is caused by mutations in the SPINK5 gene. This gene provides instructions for making a protein called LEKT1. LEKT1 is a type of serine peptidase inhibitor. Serine peptidase inhibitors control the activity of enzymes called serine peptidases, which break down other proteins. LEKT1 is found in the skin and in the thymus, which is a gland located behind the breastbone that plays an important role in the immune system by producing white blood cells called lymphocytes. LEKT1 controls the activity of certain serine peptidases in the outer layer of skin (the epidermis), especially the tough outer surface known as the stratum corneum, which provides a sturdy barrier between the body and its environment. Serine peptidase enzymes are involved in normal skin shedding by helping to break the connections between cells of the stratum corneum. LEKT1 is also involved in normal hair growth, the development of lymphocytes in the thymus, and the control of peptidases that trigger immune system function.
Netherton syndrome is estimated to affect 1 in 200,000 newborns.
This condition is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, which means both copies of the gene in each cell have mutations. The parents of an individual with an autosomal recessive condition each carry one copy of the mutated gene, but they typically do not show signs and symptoms of the condition.
Published Date: March 01, 2014Published By: National Institutes of Health