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J Biol Chem. 2006 Apr 28;281(17):12155-62. Epub 2006 Mar 3.

AKT1 provides an essential survival signal required for differentiation and stratification of primary human keratinocytes.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York 14642, USA.


Keratinocyte differentiation and stratification are complex processes involving multiple signaling pathways, which convert a basal proliferative cell into an inviable rigid squame. Loss of attachment to the basement membrane triggers keratinocyte differentiation, while in other epithelial cells, detachment from the extracellular matrix leads to rapid programmed cell death or anoikis. The potential role of AKT in providing a survival signal necessary for stratification and differentiation of primary human keratinocytes was investigated. AKT activity increased during keratinocyte differentiation and was attributed to the specific activation of AKT1 and AKT2. Targeted reduction of AKT1 expression, but not AKT2, by RNA interference resulted in an abnormal epidermis in organotypic skin cultures with a thin parabasal region and a pronounced but disorganized cornified layer. This abnormal stratification was due to significant cell death in the suprabasal layers and was alleviated by caspase inhibition. Normal expression patterns of both early and late markers of keratinocyte differentiation were also disrupted, producing a poorly developed stratum corneum.

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