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There is a crucial need to understand how physiological systems of animals will respond to increases in global air temperature. Water conservation may become more important for some species of birds, especially those living in deserts. Lipids of the stratum corneum (SC), the outer layer of the epidermis, create the barrier to water vapor diffusion, and thus control cutaneous water loss (CWL). An appreciation of the ability of birds to change CWL by altering lipids of the skin will be important to predict responses of birds to global warming. The interactions of these lipids are fundamental to the modulation of water loss through skin. Cerebrosides, with their hexose sugar moiety, are a key component of the SC in birds, but how these lipids interact with other lipids of the SC, or how they form hydrogen bonds with water molecules, to form a barrier to water vapor diffusion remains unknown. An understanding of how cerebrosides interact with other lipids of the SC, and of how the hydroxyl groups of cerebrosides interact with water molecules, may be a key to elucidating the control of CWL by the SC.


Joseph B Williams, Agustí Muñoz-Garcia, Alex Champagne. Climate change and cutaneous water loss of birds. The Journal of experimental biology. 2012 Apr 1;215(Pt 7):1053-60

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PMID: 22399649

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