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J Cell Sci. 2013 Jan 15;126(Pt 2):605-12. doi: 10.1242/jcs.115980. Epub 2012 Nov 30.

Role of STIM1- and Orai1-mediated Ca2+ entry in Ca2+-induced epidermal keratinocyte differentiation.

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  • 1National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences-NIH, Department of Health and Human Services, PO Box 12233, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.


The uppermost thin layer on the surface of the skin, called the epidermis, is responsible for the barrier function of the skin. The epidermis has a multilayered structure in which each layer consists of keratinocytes (KCs) of different differentiation status. The integrity of KC differentiation is crucial for the function of skin and its loss causes or is accompanied by skin diseases. Intracellular and extracellular Ca(2+) is known to play important roles in KC differentiation. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying Ca(2+) regulation of KC differentiation are still largely unknown. Store-operated Ca(2+) entry (SOCE) is a major Ca(2+) influx pathway in most non-excitable cells. SOCE is evoked in response to a fall in Ca(2+) concentration in the endoplasmic reticulum. Two proteins have been identified as essential components of SOCE: STIM1, a Ca(2+) sensor in the ER, and Orai1, a subunit of Ca(2+) channels in the plasma membrane. In this study, we analyzed the contribution of SOCE to KC growth and differentiation using RNAi knockdown of STIM1 and Orai1 in the human keratinocyte cell line, HaCaT. KC differentiation was induced by a switch in extracellular Ca(2+) concentration from low (0.03 mM; undifferentiated KCs) to high (1.8 mM; differentiated KCs). This Ca(2+) switch triggers phospholipase-C-mediated intracellular Ca(2+) signals (Ca(2+)-switch-induced Ca(2+) response), which would probably involve the activation of SOCE. Knockdown of either STIM1 or Orai1 strongly suppressed SOCE and almost completely abolished the Ca(2+)-switch-induced Ca(2+) responses, resulting in impaired expression of keratin1, an early KC differentiation marker. Furthermore, loss of either STIM1 or Orai1 suppressed normal growth of HaCaT cells in low Ca(2+) and inhibited the growth arrest in response to a Ca(2+) switch. These results demonstrate that SOCE plays multiple crucial roles in KC differentiation and function.

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