p63 identifies keratinocyte stem cells.

Laboratory of Tissue Engineering IDI, Istituto Dermopatico dell'Immacolata, 00040 Rome, Italy.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 9.81). 04/2001; 98(6):3156-61. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.061032098
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The proliferative compartment of stratified squamous epithelia consists of stem and transient amplifying (TA) keratinocytes. Some polypeptides are more abundant in putative epidermal stem cells than in TA cells, but no polypeptide confined to the stem cells has yet been identified. Here we show that the p63 transcription factor, a p53 homologue essential for regenerative proliferation in epithelial development, distinguishes human keratinocyte stem cells from their TA progeny. Within the cornea, nuclear p63 is expressed by the basal cells of the limbal epithelium, but not by TA cells covering the corneal surface. Human keratinocyte stem and TA cells when isolated in culture give rise to holoclones and paraclones, respectively. We show by clonal analysis that p63 is abundantly expressed by epidermal and limbal holoclones, but is undetectable in paraclones. TA keratinocytes, immediately after their withdrawal from the stem cell compartment (meroclones), have greatly reduced p63, even though they possess very appreciable proliferative capacity. Clonal evolution (i.e., generation of TA cells from precursor stem cells) is promoted by the sigma isoform of the 14-3-3 family of proteins. Keratinocytes whose 14-3-3final sigma has been down-regulated remain in the stem cell compartment and maintain p63 during serial cultivation. The identification of p63 as a keratinocyte stem cell marker will be of practical importance for the clinical application of epithelial cultures in cell therapy as well as for studies on epithelial tumorigenesis.

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    ABSTRACT: To develop a one-week storage method, without serum and xenobiotics, that would maintain cell viability, morphology, and phenotype of cultured human limbal epithelial sheets. Human limbal explants were cultured on intact human amniotic membranes for two weeks. The sheets were stored in a hermetically sealed container at 23°C in either a serum-free medium with selected animal serum-derived compounds (Quantum 286) or a xenobiotic-free medium (Minimal Essential Medium) for 4 and 7 days. Stored and non-stored cultures were analyzed for cell viability, amniotic membrane and epithelial sheet thickness, and a panel of immunohistochemical markers for immature cells (ΔNp63α, p63, Bmi-1, C/EBP∂, ABCG2 and K19), differentiated cells (K3 and Cx43), proliferation (PCNA), and apoptosis (Caspase-3). The cell viability of the cultures was 98 ± 1% and remained high after storage. Mean central thickness of non-stored limbal epithelial sheets was 23 ± 3 μm, and no substantial loss of cells was observed after storage. The non-stored epithelial sheets expressed a predominantly immature phenotype with ΔNp63α positivity of more than 3% in 9 of 13 cultures. After storage, the expression of ABCG2 and C/EBP∂ was reduced for the 7 day Quantum 286-storage group; (P = 0.04), and Bmi-1 was reduced after 4 day Quantum 286-storage; (P = 0.02). No other markers varied significantly. The expression of differentiation markers was unrelated to the thickness of the epithelia and amniotic membrane, apart from ABCG2, which correlated negatively with thickness of limbal epithelia (R = -0.69, P = 0.01) and ΔNp63α, which correlated negatively with amniotic membrane thickness (R = -0.59, P = 0.03). Limbal epithelial cells cultured from explants on amniotic membrane can be stored at 23°C in both serum-free and xenobiotic-free media, with sustained cell viability, ultrastructure, and ΔNp63α-positivity after both 4 and 7 days.
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