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J Cell Biochem. 2006 May 15;98(2):394-408.

Defining the transcriptome of accelerated and replicatively senescent keratinocytes reveals links to differentiation, interferon signaling, and Notch related pathways.

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Keck Graduate Institute, Claremont, California, USA.


Epidermal keratinocytes (KCs) undergo highly orchestrated morphological and molecular changes during transition from proliferative compartment into growth arrested early and late differentiation layers, prior to dying in outermost cornified layers of normal skin. Creation of stratum corneum is vital to barrier function protecting against infection. Transcriptional events in KCs regulating complex processes of differentiation and host defense required to maintain constant epidermal thickness and resistance to infection in either young or aged skin are largely unknown. Furthermore, as terminal differentiation is characterized by irreversible loss of replicative potential culminating in dead layers at the skin surface, this process may be viewed as a form of senescence. However, a complete transcriptional profile of senescent (SN) human KCs has not been previously defined to permit delineation of molecular boundaries involving differentiation and senescence. To fill this void, we utilized global transcriptional analysis of KCs maintained in vitro as either cultures of proliferating (PR) cells, early and late confluent (LC) (accelerated senescence) cultures, or KCs undergoing replicative senescence. Global gene expression profiling revealed early confluent (EC) KCs were somewhat similar to PR KCs, while prominent differences were evident when compared to LC KCs; which were also distinct from replicatively SN KCs. While confluent KCs have in common several genes regulating differentiation with replicatively SN KCs, the latter cells expressed elevated levels of genes involved in interferon signaling and inflammatory pathways. These results provide new insights into cell autonomous transcriptional-based programs operative within KCs contributing to replicative senescence, with partial sharing of genes involved in differentiation. In addition, regulation of KC senescence may involve participation of interferon signaling pathways derived from the important role of KCs in protecting skin from infection. Integrating all of the transcriptional data revealed a key role for Notch receptor mediated signaling in the confluency induced differentiation phenotype using this model system.

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