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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2012 Feb;23(1):92-101. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2011.10.017. Epub 2011 Oct 21.

Eph/ephrin signaling in epidermal differentiation and disease.

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Department of Dermatology, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL 60611, USA.


Eph receptor tyrosine kinases mediate cell-cell communication by interacting with ephrin ligands residing on adjacent cell surfaces. In doing so, these juxtamembrane signaling complexes provide important contextual information about the cellular microenvironment that helps orchestrate tissue morphogenesis and maintain homeostasis. Eph/ephrin signaling has been implicated in various aspects of mammalian skin physiology, with several members of this large family of receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligands present in the epidermis, hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and underlying dermis. This review focuses on the emerging role of Eph receptors and ephrins in epidermal keratinocytes where they can modulate proliferation, migration, differentiation, and death. The activation of Eph receptors by ephrins at sites of cell-cell contact also appears to play a key role in the maturation of intercellular junctional complexes as keratinocytes move out of the basal layer and differentiate in the suprabasal layers of this stratified, squamous epithelium. Furthermore, alterations in the epidermal Eph/ephrin axis have been associated with cutaneous malignancy, wound healing defects and inflammatory skin conditions. These collective observations suggest that the Eph/ephrin cell-cell communication pathway may be amenable to therapeutic intervention for the purpose of restoring epidermal tissue homeostasis and integrity in dermatological disorders.

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