Onset of keratin 17 expression coincides with the definition of major epithelial lineages during skin development

Kevin M. McGowan, Pierre A. Coulombe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

234 Scopus citations


The type I keratin 17 (K17) shows a peculiar localization in human epithelial appendages including hair follicles, which undergo a growth cycle throughout adult life. Additionally K17 is induced, along with K6 and K16, early after acute injury to human skin. To gain further insights into its potential function(s), we cloned the mouse K17 gene and investigated its expression during skin development. Synthesis of K17 protein first occurs in a subset of epithelial cells within the single-layered, undifferentiated ectoderm of embryonic day 10.5 mouse fetuses. In the ensuing 48 h, K17- expressing cells give rise to placodes, the precursors of ectoderm-derived appendages (hair, glands, and tooth), and to periderm. During early development, there is a spatial correspondence in the distribution of K17 and that of lymphoid-enhancer factor (lef-1), a DNA-bending protein involved in inductive epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. We demonstrate that ectopic lef-1 expression induces K17 protein in the skin of adult transgenic mice. The pattern of K17 gene expression during development has direct implications for the morphogenesis of skin epithelia, and points to the existence of a molecular relationship between development and wound repair.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-486
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 19 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Development
  • Hair
  • Keratin
  • Skin
  • Wound repair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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