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PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e24194. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024194. Epub 2011 Sep 21.

The receptor tyrosine kinase FGFR2b/KGFR controls early differentiation of human keratinocytes.

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Dipartimento di Medicina Clinica e Molecolare, Istituto Pasteur-Fondazione Cenci Bolognetti, Sapienza Università di Roma, Rome, Italy.


The FGFRs trigger divergent responses, such as proliferation and differentiation, and the cell type as well as the context-dependent signaling are crucial for the functional outcome. The FGFR2b/KGFR is expressed exclusively on epithelial cells and plays a key role in skin homeostasis. Here we analyzed in vitro the role of KGFR in the early differentiation of keratinocytes modulating its expression by KGFR cDNA transient transfection or KGFR siRNA microinjection and inducing a synchronous wave of differentiation in pre-confluent cells. Immunofluorescence, biochemical and molecular approaches demonstrated that KGFR overexpression increased the early differentiation marker keratin 1 at both transcriptional and translational levels, while receptor depletion reduced it. Ligand-dependent receptor activation and signaling were required for this differentiative effect. Overexpression of kinase negative KGFR mutant or Tyr769 KGFR signaling mutant, which is not able to recruit and activate PLC-γ, showed that the receptor kinase activity, but not its PLCγ-mediated signaling, is required for differentiation. Reduction of K1 expression, obtained by AKT inhibition, demonstrated that the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway is involved in the control of KGFR-mediated keratinocyte differentiation. This in vitro experimental model indicates that FGFR2b/KGFR expression represents a key event regulating keratinocyte early differentiation during the switch from undifferentiated to differentiating cells.

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