Anisotropic cellular forces support mechanical integrity of the Stratum Corneum barrier.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of the mechanical behavior of biomedical materials, Volume 92, p.11-23 (2019)




The protective function of biological surfaces that are exposed to the exterior of living organisms is the result of a complex arrangement and interaction of cellular components. This is the case for the most external cornified layer of skin, the stratum corneum (SC). This layer is made of corneocytes, the elementary 'flat bricks' that are held together through adhesive junctions. Despite the well-known protective role of the SC under high mechanical stresses and rapid cell turnover, the subtleties regarding the adhesion and mechanical interaction among the individual corneocytes are still poorly known. Here, we explore the adhesion of single corneocytes at different depths of the SC, by pulling them using glass microcantilevers, and measuring their detachment forces. We measured their interplanar adhesion between SC layers, and their peripheral adhesion among cells within a SC layer. Both adhesions increased considerably with depth. At the SC surface, with respect to adhesion, the corneocyte population exhibited a strong heterogeneity, where detachment forces differed by more than one order of magnitude for corneocytes located side by side. The measured detachment forces indicated that in the upper-middle layers of SC, the peripheral adhesion was stronger than the interplanar one. We conclude that the stronger peripheral adhesion of corneocytes in the SC favors an efficient barrier which would be able to resist strong stresses.