Increased levels of keratin 16 alter epithelialization potential of mouse skin keratinocytes in vivo and ex vivo

M. J. Wawersik, S. Mazzalupo, D. Nguyen, P. A. Coulombe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


The process of wound repair in adult skin is complex, involving dermal contraction and epithelial migration to repair the lesion and restore the skin's barrier properties. At the wound edge, keratinocytes undergo many changes that engender an epithelialization behavior. The type II keratin 6 and type I keratins 16 and 17 are induced well before cell migration begins, but the role of these proteins is not understood. Forced expression of human K16 in skin epithelia of transgenic mice has been shown to cause dose-dependent skin lesions concomitant with alterations in keratin filament organization and in cell adhesion. Here we show, with the use of a quantitative assay, that these transgenic mice show a delay in the closure of full-thickness skin wounds in situ compared with wild-type and low-expressing K16 transgenic mice. We adapted and validated an ex vivo skin explant culture system to better assess epithelialization in a wound-like environment. Transgenic K16 explants exhibit a significant reduction of keratinocyte outgrowth in this setting. This delay is transgene dose-dependent, and is more severe when K16 is expressed in mitotic compared with post-mitotic keratinocytes. Various lines of evidence suggest that the mechanism(s) involved is complex and not strictly cell autonomous. These findings have important implications for the function of K16 in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3439-3450
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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