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Exp Dermatol. 2011 Mar;20(3):263-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0625.2010.01157.x. Epub 2010 Dec 17.

Autophagy in human keratinocytes: an early step of the differentiation?

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EA 3842 Homeostasie Cellulaire & Pathologies - Faculte de Medecine, Rue du Dr Marcland, Limoges Cedex, France R&D Department, SILAB, BP 213, Brive Cedex, France.


Studies have established that autophagy constitutes an efficient process to recycle cellular components and certain proteins. The phenomenon was demonstrated primarily in response to nutrient starvation, and there are increasing evidences that it is implied in differentiation. Keratinocyte differentiation was going along an activation of lysosomal enzymes and organelle clearance, and terminal steps are sometimes described as a specialized form of cell death leading to corneocytes. We examined whether initiation of the process in human keratinocyte HaCaT involves autophagy. The KSFM™ culture medium was substituted by M199, which contains a low glucose concentration but a high calcium level (known to induce differentiation). Metabolic stress reduced enhanced cell number in G(1) phase, without apoptotic features (ΔΨmt and membrane integrity are unchanged). Morphological changes were associated with a lower integrin ß1 expression and modifications of protein levels involved in keratinocyte differentiation (involucrin, keratin K10 and ΔNp63α). Whereas autophagic signalling was supported by SIRT1 and pAMPK (T172) increase according to time kinetic, which led to the disappearance of mTOR phosphorylated on S2448 residue. The significant Bcl-X(L) level reduction with stress promoted autophagy, by the release of Beclin-1, whereas ATG5-ATG12 and LC3-II that are involved in autophagosome formation were enhanced significantly. Then, the level of lysosomal protein cathepsin B rose to execute autophagy. Kinetic studies established that autophagy would constitute an early signalling process required for keratinocyte commitment in differentiation pathway.

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