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J Invest Dermatol. 2001 Feb;116(2):330-8.

Interleukin-1 induces transcription of keratin K6 in human epidermal keratinocytes.

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The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, Department of Cell Biology and Biochemistry, New York University Medical Center, 550 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA.


Keratinocytes respond to injury by releasing the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1, which serves as the initial "alarm signal" to surrounding cells. Among the consequences of interleukin-1 release is the production of additional cytokines and their receptors by keratinocytes and other cells in the skin. Here we describe an additional effect of interleukin-1 on keratinocytes, namely the alteration in the keratinocyte cytoskeleton in the form of the induction of keratin 6 expression. Keratin 6 is a marker of hyperproliferative, activated keratinocytes, found in wound healing, psoriasis, and other inflammatory disorders. Skin biopsies in organ culture treated with interleukin-1 express keratin 6 in all suprabasal layers of the epidermis, throughout the tissue. In cultured epidermal keratinocytes, the induction of keratin 6 is time and concentration dependent. Importantly, only confluent keratinocytes respond to interleukin-1, subconfluent cultures do not. In the cells starved of growth factors, epidermal growth factor or tumor necrosis factor-alpha, if added simultaneously with interleukin-1, they synergistically augment the effects of interleukin-1. Using DNA-mediated cell transfection, we analyzed the molecular mechanisms regulating the keratin 6 induction by interleukin-1, and found that the induction occurs at the transcriptional level. We used a series of deletions and point mutations to identify the interleukin-1 responsive DNA element in the keratin 6 promoter, and determined that it contains a complex of C/EBP binding sites. The transcription factor C/EBPbeta binds this element in vitro, and the binding is augmented by pretreatment of the cells with interleukin-1. The interleukin-1 responsive element is clearly distinct from the epidermal growth factor responsive one, which means that the proinflammatory and proliferative signals independently regulate the expression of keratin 6. Thus, interleukin-1 initiates keratinocyte activation not only by triggering additional signaling events, but also by inducing directly the synthesis of keratin 6 in epidermal keratinocytes, and thus changing the composition of their cytoskeleton.

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