The KRT6A gene provides instructions for making a protein called keratin 6a or K6a. Keratins are a group of tough, fibrous proteins that form the structural framework of certain cells, particularly cells that make up the skin, hair, nails, and similar tissues. Keratin 6a is produced in the nails, the skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, and the oral mucosa that lines the inside of the mouth.
Keratin 6a partners with a similar protein, keratin 16, to form molecules called keratin intermediate filaments. These filaments assemble into dense networks that provide strength and resilience to the skin, nails, and other tissues. Networks of keratin intermediate filaments protect these tissues from being damaged by friction and other everyday physical stresses. Keratin 6a is also among several keratins involved in wound healing.
About 40 mutations in the KRT6A gene have been identified in people with pachyonychia congenita, a rare condition that primarily affects the nails and skin. In most cases, this condition becomes apparent within the first few months of life. Most of these mutations change single protein building blocks (amino acids) in keratin 6a. A few mutations add or delete a small number of amino acids.
The KRT6A gene mutations responsible for pachyonychia congenita change the structure of keratin 6a, preventing it from interacting effectively with keratin 16 and interfering with the assembly of the keratin intermediate filament network. Without this network, skin cells become fragile and are easily damaged, making the skin less resistant to friction and minor trauma. Even normal activities such as walking can cause skin cells to break down, resulting in the formation of severe, painful blisters and calluses. Additionally, fragile skin cells may abnormally produce more keratin in response to damage, which makes the skin problems worse. Defective keratin 6a also disrupts the growth and function of other tissues, such as the hair follicles and nails, which explains why the signs and symptoms of pachyonychia congenita can also affect these other parts of the body.
- 56 cytoskeletal type II keratin
- CK 6A
- cytokeratin 6A
- keratin 6A, type II
- keratin, epidermal type II, K6A