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

Expression of murine epidermal differentiation markers is tightly regulated by restricted extracellular calcium concentrations in vitro.

Epidermal differentiation is characterized by a series of coordinated morphological and biochemical changes which result in a highly specialized, highly organized, stratified squamous epithelium. Among the specific markers expressed in differentiating epidermis are (a) two early spinous cell proteins, keratins 1 and 10 (K1 and K10); and (b) two later granular cell proteins, filaggrin and a cornified envelope precursor (CE). In vitro, epidermal basal cells are selectively cultured in 0.05 mM Ca2+ medium, and terminal differentiation is induced when the Ca2+ concentration is increased to 1 mM. However, only a small fraction of the cells express the markers K1, K10, CE, or filaggrin in the higher Ca2+ medium. To explore the factors required for marker expression, cultured epidermal cells were exposed to intermediate Ca2+ concentrations and extracts were analyzed using specific antibody and nucleic acid probes for the four markers of interest. These studies revealed that marker expression was enhanced at a restricted concentration of Ca2+ in the medium of 0.10-0.16 mM. At this Ca2+ concentration, both protein and mRNA levels for each marker were substantially increased, whereas at higher or lower Ca2+ concentrations they were diminished or undetected. The percentage of cells expressing each marker was increased two- to threefold in the permissive Ca2+ medium as determined by immunofluorescence analysis. This optimal level of Ca2+ was required both to initiate and sustain marker expression. At the permissive Ca2+ concentration, expression of the markers was sequential and similar to the order of appearance in vivo. K1 was expressed within 8-12 h and K10 was expressed in the ensuing 12-24-h period. CE and filaggrin were expressed in the subsequent 24 h. Inhibition of K1 expression by cycloheximide suggested that an inducible protein was involved. Other investigators have determined that a shallow Ca2+ gradient exists in epidermis, where the basal cells and spinous cells are in a Ca2+ environment substantially below serum Ca2+ levels. These in vitro results suggest that the Ca2+ environment is a fundamental regulator of expression of epidermal differentiation markers and provide an explanation for the existence of the Ca2+ gradient in vivo.[1]


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