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Oncogene. 2011 Jan 13;30(2):127-38. doi: 10.1038/onc.2010.456. Epub 2010 Oct 4.

Keratins in health and cancer: more than mere epithelial cell markers.

Author information

  • Department of Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Piscataway, NJ, USA. karantva@umdnj.edu

Abstract

Keratins are the intermediate filament (IF)-forming proteins of epithelial cells. Since their initial characterization almost 30 years ago, the total number of mammalian keratins has increased to 54, including 28 type I and 26 type II keratins. Keratins are obligate heteropolymers and, similarly to other IFs, they contain a dimeric central α-helical rod domain that is flanked by non-helical head and tail domains. The 10-nm keratin filaments participate in the formation of a proteinaceous structural framework within the cellular cytoplasm and, as such, serve an important role in epithelial cell protection from mechanical and non-mechanical stressors, a property extensively substantiated by the discovery of human keratin mutations predisposing to tissue-specific injury and by studies in keratin knockout and transgenic mice. More recently, keratins have also been recognized as regulators of other cellular properties and functions, including apico-basal polarization, motility, cell size, protein synthesis and membrane traffic and signaling. In cancer, keratins are extensively used as diagnostic tumor markers, as epithelial malignancies largely maintain the specific keratin patterns associated with their respective cells of origin, and, in many occasions, full-length or cleaved keratin expression (or lack there of) in tumors and/or peripheral blood carries prognostic significance for cancer patients. Quite intriguingly, several studies have provided evidence for active keratin involvement in cancer cell invasion and metastasis, as well as in treatment responsiveness, and have set the foundation for further exploration of the role of keratins as multifunctional regulators of epithelial tumorigenesis.

PMID:
20890307
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3155291
Free PMC Article

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