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J Biol Chem. 2011 Mar 18;286(11):9419-28. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.197087. Epub 2010 Dec 30.

Specific and shared targets of ephrin A signaling in epidermal keratinocytes.

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Department of Dermatology and the New York University Cancer Institute, NYU School of Medicine, New York, New York 10016, USA.


Both ephrins (EFNs) and their receptors (Ephs) are membrane-bound, restricting their interactions to the sites of direct cell-to-cell interfaces. They are widely expressed, often co-expressed, and regulate developmental processes, cell adhesion, motility, survival, proliferation, and differentiation. Both tumor suppressor and oncogene activities are ascribed to EFNs and Ephs in various contexts. A major conundrum regarding the EFN/Eph system concerns their large number and functional redundancy given the promiscuous cross-activation of ligands and receptors and the overlapping intracellular signaling pathways. To address this issue, we treated human epidermal keratinocytes with five EFNAs individually and defined the transcriptional responses in the cells. We found that a large set of genes is coregulated by all EFNAs. However, although the responses to EFNA3, EFNA4, and EFNA5 are identical, the responses to EFNA1 and EFNA2 are characteristic and distinctive. All EFNAs induce epidermal differentiation markers and suppress cell adhesion genes, especially integrins. Ontological analysis showed that all EFNAs induce cornification and keratin genes while suppressing wound healing-associated, signaling, receptor, and extracellular matrix-associated genes. Transcriptional targets of AP1 are selectively suppressed by EFNAs. EFNA1 and EFNA2, but not the EFNA3, EFNA4, EFNA5 cluster, regulate the members of the ubiquitin-associated proteolysis genes. EFNA1 specifically induces collagen production. Our results demonstrate that the EFN-Eph interactions in the epidermis, although promiscuous, are not redundant but specific. This suggests that different members of the EFN/Eph system have specific, clearly demarcated functions.

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