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Am J Pathol. 2002 Oct;161(4):1111-7.

p63 Coordinates anogenital modeling and epithelial cell differentiation in the developing female urogenital tract.

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Department of Pathology, Division of Women's and Perinatal Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


p63 is a p53 homologue required for cutaneous development that is expressed in immature squamous epithelium and reserve cells of the cervix. Humans with p63 mutations exhibit defects in limb, accessory organ (skin appendage, breast, prostate), and genitourinary development. Because p63 expression patterns imply a strong role of the gene in the female genital tract development, newborn female p63-/-, +/-, and +/+ mice were examined in situ, dissected, and compared. Nuclear p63 protein was localized to the skin, vagina, bladder, urethra, and basal columnar cells of the caudal uterus in p63+/+ and +/- animals. p63-/- mice exhibited abnormal genital morphogenesis with hypoplastic genitalia, a single cloacal opening, and persistence of columnar epithelium at lower genital tract sites that normally undergo squamous and urothelial differentiation. The defects observed support p63-dependent pathways of genital tract development that permit externally, ectodermal basal cell replenishment integral to reciprocal epithelial stromal signaling, urorectal septation, and modeling of the external genitalia; and internally, the emergence of basal epithelial cell populations capable of divergent epithelial cell differentiation in the vagina, cervix, and urinary tract. Defects in the first pathway explain imperforate anus, vaginal septum, genital hypoplasia, and micropenis reported in humans with p63 mutations. The second is necessary for the generation of multipotential reserve cells in the cervix and may be operative in other epithelial stromal interactions integral to the emergence of uterine basal cells later in life.

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