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J Invest Dermatol. 1997 Jun;108(6):864-70.

Keratinocyte K+ channels mediate Ca2+-induced differentiation.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of CA, San Francisco, California, USA.


K+ channel activation has been associated with growth or differentiation in many cells. We have previously identified a 70-pS K+ channel that was found only in differentiated involucrin-positive cells. In this study we examined the role of K+ channels in Ca2+-induced keratinocyte differentiation. Consistent with our previous report, we found that a K+ conductance developed only in cells cultured in high extracellular Ca2+. Addition of charybdotoxin or verapamil blocked these K+ channels and inhibited Ca2+-induced differentiation, as assessed by cornified envelope formation or transglutaminase activity. These results suggest that K+ channel activation is necessary for Ca2+-induced differentiation. Finally, we used (125)I-labeled charybdotoxin to demonstrate the presence of K+ channels in intact human and mouse epidermis, hair follicles, and eccrine glands, indicating that these channels are found in keratinocytes both in vitro and in vivo. Thus K+ channels may moderate Ca2+ influx in more differentiated keratinocytes and may play a central role in keratinocyte differentiation.

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