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J Cell Sci. 2003 Oct 15;116(Pt 20):4239-48. Epub 2003 Sep 2.

Desmosomal proteins, including desmoglein 3, serve as novel negative markers for epidermal stem cell-containing population of keratinocytes.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Pathology, St John's Institute of Dermatology, London, UK.


No single method has been universally adopted for identifying and isolating epidermal stem/progenitor cells, and the emergence of new markers of stem cell populations is worth exploring. Here we report, for the first time, that clusters of basal keratinocytes at the tips of the rete ridges in human palm, previously recognised as a major repository of stem cells, had very low levels of desmoplakin protein and mRNA expression, compared with cells at the sides of the ridges or above the dermal papillae. We found that in populations of palm keratinocytes, selected by their ability to adhere rapidly to type IV collagen, there were significantly reduced levels of desmoplakin and other major desmosome proteins. We then showed that a low desmoglein 3 (Dsg3) expression on the cell surface could be used to enrich for a cell population with high clonogenecity, colony forming efficiency and enhanced proliferative potential, but with a low ability to form the abortive clones, compared with populations with a higher Dsg3 expression. Moreover, stringent sorting of populations showing both beta1 integrin-bright and Dsg3-dull expression enabled even further enrichment of a population containing the putative epidermal stem cells. These findings provide the basis for a new strategy for epidermal stem/progenitor cell enrichment, and encourage further study of the role of desmosomes in stem cell biology.

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