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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Functional testing of keratin 14 mutant proteins associated with the three major subtypes of epidermolysis bullosa simplex.

Epidermolysis bullosa simplex (EBS) is a group of autosomal dominantly inherited skin disorders characterized by the development of intra-epidermal skin blisters on mild mechanical trauma. The three major clinical subtypes (Weber-Cockayne, Koebner and Dowling-Meara) are all caused by mutations in either the keratin 5 (KRT5) or keratin 14 (KRT14) gene. Previously, we identified three novel KRT14 missense mutations in Danish EBS patients associated with the three different forms of EBS (1). The identified KRT14 mutations represent the full spectrum of the classical EBS subtypes. In the present study we investigated these mutations in a cellular expression system in order to analyse their effects on the keratin cytoskeleton. KRT14 expression vectors were constructed by fusing the nucleotide sequence encoding the FLAG reporter peptide to the 3' end of the KRT14 cDNA sequences. The expression vectors were transiently transfected into normal human primary keratinocytes (NHK), HaCaT or HeLa cells in order to analyze the ability of the mutant K14 proteins to integrate into the existing endogenous keratin filament network (KFN). No effect on the keratin cytoskeleton was observed upon transfection of NHK with the various K14 constructs neither with nor without a subsequently induced heat-stress. In contrast, all constructs, including wild-type K14, caused collapse of the endogenous KFN in a small fraction of the transfected HeLa and HaCaT cells. However, overexpression of the mutation associated with the most severe form of the disease, EBS Dowling-Meara, resulted in a higher number of transfected HaCaT cells with KFN collapse (P < 0.001). Thus, although a background KFN perturbance was observed upon transfection with the wild-type K14 construct, the mutant protein associated with the most severe form of EBS worsened the KFN perturbation significantly compared with the mutant proteins associated with the milder forms of the disease and the normal K14 protein. This shows that the clinical severity of disease-associated mutations identified in patients can be tested using this expression system, although it can not at present be used to discriminate between the milder forms. Assessment of the endogenous K14 protein expression in NHK and HaCaT cells indicated that the higher level of endogenous keratin expression in NHK might make these cells more resistant to perturbation of the keratin cytoskeleton by overexpressed K14 protein than HaCaT cells.[1]


  1. Functional testing of keratin 14 mutant proteins associated with the three major subtypes of epidermolysis bullosa simplex. Sørensen, C.B., Andresen, B.S., Jensen, U.B., Jensen, T.G., Jensen, P.K., Gregersen, N., Bolund, L. Exp. Dermatol. (2003) [Pubmed]
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