[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The stem cell niche is thought to affect cell cycle quiescence, proliferative capacity and communication between stem cells and their neighbors. How these activities are controlled is not completely understood. Here we define a microRNA family (miRs-103/107) preferentially expressed in the stem cell-enriched limbal epithelium that regulates and integrates these stem cell characteristics. miRs-103/107 target the ribosomal kinase p90RSK2, thereby arresting cells in G0/G1 and contributing to a slow-cycling phenotype. Furthermore, miRs-103/107 increase the proliferative capacity of keratinocytes by targeting Wnt3a, which enhances Sox 9 and YAP 1 levels and thus promotes a stem cell phenotype. This miRNA family also regulates keratinocyte cell-cell communication by targeting: (i) the scaffolding protein NEDD9, preserving E-cadherin-mediated cell adhesion; and (ii) the tyrosine phosphatase PTPRM, which negatively regulates connexin 43-based gap junctions. We propose that such regulation of cell communication and adhesion molecules maintains the integrity of the stem cell niche ultimately preserving self-renewal, a hallmark of epithelial stem cells. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cutaneous atrophy is the major adverse effect of topical glucocorticoids; however, its molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Here, we identify stress-inducible mTOR inhibitor REDD1 (regulated in development and DNA damage response 1) as a major molecular target of glucocorticoids, which mediates cutaneous atrophy. In REDD1 knockout (KO) mice, all skin compartments (epidermis, dermis, subcutaneous fat), epidermal stem, and progenitor cells were protected from atrophic effects of glucocorticoids. Moreover, REDD1 knockdown resulted in similar consequences in organotypic raft cultures of primary human keratinocytes. Expression profiling revealed that gene activation by glucocorticoids was strongly altered in REDD1 KO epidermis. In contrast, the down-regulation of genes involved in anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid response was strikingly similar in wild-type and REDD1 KO mice. Integrative bioinformatics analysis of our and published gene array data revealed similar changes of gene expression in epidermis and in muscle undergoing glucocorticoid-dependent and glucocorticoid-independent atrophy. Importantly, the lack of REDD1 did not diminish the anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticoids in preclinical model. Our findings suggest that combining steroids with REDD1 inhibitors may yield a novel, safer glucocorticoid-based therapies.
EMBO Molecular Medicine 12/2014; 7(1). DOI:10.15252/emmm.201404601 · 8.67 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Vibrio vulnificus is an environmental organism that causes both food-borne and wound infections in humans with high morbidity and mortality. The annual incidence and global distribution of infections associated with this pathogen are increasing with climate change. In the late 1990's, an outbreak of tilapia-associated wound infections in Israel was linked to a previously unrecognized variant of V. vulnificus designated as Biotype 3. The sudden emergence and clonality of the outbreak suggests this strain may be a truly newly emergent pathogen with novel virulence properties compared to other V. vulnificus strains. In a subcutaneous infection model to mimic wound infection, the Multifunctional-Autoprocessing RTX (MARTX) toxin of Biotype 3 strains is shown to be an essential virulence factor contributing to highly inflammatory skin wounds with severe damage affecting every tissue layer. We conducted a sequencing-based analysis of the MARTX toxin and found that Biotype 3 MARTX toxin has a distinct effector domain structure compared to either the Biotype 1 or Biotype 2. Amoung two new domains identified, a domain similar to Pseudomonas aeruginosa ExoY is shown to be an adenylate cyclase conferring to the MARTX toxin adenylate cyclase activity. This is the first demonstration that the Biotype 3 MARTX toxin is essential for virulence and that the ExoY-like MARTX effector domain is a catalytically activity adenylate cyclase.
Infection and immunity 03/2014; 82(5). DOI:10.1128/IAI.00017-14 · 3.73 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Purpose:
Corneal epithelial cells have large stores of glycogen, which serve as their primary energy source. Recently, we demonstrated that factor-inhibiting hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (FIH-1) diminished glycogen stores in vitro and in vivo, working through the Akt/Glycogen Synthase Kinase (GSK)-3β pathway. In this study we investigated the relationship between FIH-1 and c-kit as it pertains to limbal and corneal epithelial glycogen stores.
Limbal and corneal epithelia from wild-type FIH-1(-/-) and Kit(W/Wv) mice were stained with periodic acid Schiff (PAS) to detect glycogen. RNA samples prepared from laser-capture microdissected populations of limbal epithelium were subjected to real-time quantitative PCR to determine c-kit ligand expression. Submerged cultures of primary human corneal epithelial keratinocytes (HCEKs) transduced with FIH-1 were treated with c-kit ligand to establish further a FIH-1/c-kit interaction via Western analysis. Akt phosphorylation was assessed by Western blotting.
The limbal epithelial cells of FIH-1 null mice had an increase in glycogen levels as well as increased c-kit ligand mRNA compared with wild-type controls. Consistent with a FIH-1/c-kit association, the diminished Akt signaling observed in FIH-1-overexpressing HCEKs could be restored by the addition of c-kit ligand. Interestingly, Akt signaling and glycogen content of the corneal epithelium were significantly decreased in c-kit mutant mice.
c-Kit signaling has been shown to affect glucose metabolism via the Akt/GSK-3β pathway. An inverse relationship between FIH-1 and c-kit signaling pathways accounts, in part, for differences in glycogen content between corneal and limbal epithelial cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Proper regulation of keratinocyte differentiation within the epidermis and follicular epithelium is essential for maintenance of epidermal barrier function and hair growth. The signaling intermediates that regulate the morphological and genetic changes associated with epidermal and follicular differentiation remain poorly understood. We tested the hypothesis that reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by mitochondria are an important regulator of epidermal differentiation by generating mice with a keratinocyte-specific deficiency in mitochondrial transcription factor A (TFAM), which is required for the transcription of mitochondrial genes encoding electron transport chain subunits. Ablation of TFAM in keratinocytes impaired epidermal differentiation and hair follicle growth and resulted in death 2 weeks after birth. TFAM-deficient keratinocytes failed to generate mitochondria-derived ROS, a deficiency that prevented the transmission of Notch and β-catenin signals essential for epidermal differentiation and hair follicle development, respectively. In vitro keratinocyte differentiation was inhibited in the presence of antioxidants, and the decreased differentiation marker abundance in TFAM-deficient keratinocytes was partly rescued by application of exogenous hydrogen peroxide. These findings indicate that mitochondria-generated ROS are critical mediators of cellular differentiation and tissue morphogenesis.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Notch plays a critical role in the transition from proliferation to differentiation in the epidermis and corneal epithelium. Furthermore, aberrant Notch signaling is a feature of diseases like psoriasis, eczema, nonmelanoma skin cancer, and melanoma where differentiation and proliferation are impaired. Whereas much is known about the downstream events following Notch signaling, factors responsible for negatively regulating Notch receptor signaling after ligand activation are incompletely understood. Notch can undergo hydroxylation by factor-inhibiting hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (FIH-1); however, the biological significance of this phenomenon is unclear. Here we show that FIH-1 expression is up-regulated in diseased epidermis and corneal epithelium. Elevating FIH-1 levels in primary human epidermal keratinocytes (HEKs) and human corneal epithelial keratinocytes (HCEKs) impairs differentiation in submerged cultures and in a "three-dimensional" organotypic raft model of human epidermis, in part, via a coordinate decrease in Notch signaling. Knockdown of FIH-1 enhances keratinocyte differentiation. Loss of FIH-1 in vivo increased Notch activity in the limbal epithelium, resulting in a more differentiated phenotype. microRNA-31 (miR-31) is an endogenous negative regulator of FIH-1 expression that results in keratinocyte differentiation, mediated by Notch activation. Ectopically expressing miR-31 in an undifferentiated corneal epithelial cell line promotes differentiation and recapitulates a corneal epithelium in a three-dimensional raft culture model. Our results define a previously unknown mechanism for keratinocyte fate decisions where Notch signaling potential is, in part, controlled through a miR-31/FIH-1 nexus.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 08/2012; 109(35):14030-4. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1111292109 · 9.67 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Corneal epithelium relies on abundant glycogen stores as its primary energy source. MicroRNA-31 (miR-31), a corneal epithelial-preferred miRNA, negatively regulates factor inhibiting hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (FIH-1). Since HIF-1α is involved in anaerobic energy production, we investigated the role that miR-31 and FIH-1 play in regulating corneal epithelial glycogen. We used antagomirs (antago) to reduce the level of miR-31 in primary human corneal epithelial keratinocytes (HCEKs), and a miR-31-resistant FIH-1 to increase FIH-1 levels. Antago-31 raised FIH-1 levels and significantly reduced glycogen stores in HCEKs compared to irrelevant-antago treatment. Similarly, HCEKs retrovirally transduced with a miR-31-resistant FIH-1 had markedly reduced glycogen levels compared with empty vector controls. In addition, we observed no change in a HIF-1α reporter or known genes downstream of HIF-1α indicating that the action of FIH-1 and miR-31 on glycogen is HIF-1α-independent. An enzyme-dead FIH-1 mutation failed to restore glycogen stores, indicating that FIH-1 negatively regulates glycogen in a hydroxylase-independent manner. FIH-1 overexpression in HCEKs decreased AKT signaling, activated GSK-3β, and inactivated glycogen synthase. Treatment of FIH-1-transduced HCEKs with either a myristolated Akt or a GSK-3β inhibitor restored glycogen stores, confirming the direct involvement of Akt/GSK-3β signaling. Silencing FIH-1 in HCEKs reversed the observed changes in Akt-signaling. Glycogen regulation in a HIF-1α-independent manner is a novel function for FIH-1 and provides new insight into how the corneal epithelium regulates its energy requirements.
The FASEB Journal 04/2012; 26(8):3140-7. DOI:10.1096/fj.11-198515 · 5.04 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Eph/ephrin signaling proteins are present in the corneal epithelium, where their function remains unknown. The authors examined the role of the EphA2 receptor and ephrin-A1 ligand in human corneal epithelial cell migration.
Immunohistochemical analysis of EphA2 and ephrin-A1 in healthy and diabetic corneas was performed in concert with linear scratch wound healing studies in primary and telomerase-immortalized human corneal epithelial cells. Corneal epithelial cells were exposed to a soluble ephrin-A1-Fc peptide mimetic that targets EphA2 to trigger receptor phosphorylation and subsequent downregulation. Genetic modulation of EphA2 and ephrin-A1 levels was combined with manipulation of Erk1/2 or Akt signaling during wound healing.
EphA2 was immunolocalized to human corneal epithelial cells in vivo and in vitro. Ephrin-A1 ligand targeting of EphA2 restricted the ability of corneal epithelial cells to seal linear scratch wounds in a manner that was associated with a transient reduction in Erk1/2 and Akt activation state. Ephrin-A1-Fc treatment delayed wound healing independently of Mek-Erk1/2 signaling but was no longer capable of restricting migration after pharmacologic blockade of the PI3K-Akt pathway. Interestingly, ephrin-A1 immunoreactivity was increased in the corneal epithelia of diabetic individuals, mice maintained on a high-fat diet, or cultured corneal epithelial cells exposed to high glucose, which exhibit impaired Akt signaling and slower wound healing responses.
EphA2 attenuates corneal epithelial cell migration when stimulated by ephrin-A1 ligand in a manner that involves the suppression of Akt. Elevated levels of ephrin-A1 may contribute to diabetic keratopathies by persistently engaging EphA2 and prohibiting Akt-dependent corneal epithelial repair processes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) is a vasodilatory peptide that has been detected at high levels in the skin, blood, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) under a variety of inflammatory and chronic pain conditions, presumably derived from peptidergic C and Aδ innervation. Herein, CGRP immunolabeling (IL) was detected in epidermal keratinocytes at levels that were especially high and widespread in the skin of humans from locations afflicted with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) and complex region pain syndrome type 1 (CRPS), of monkeys infected with simian immunodeficiency virus, and of rats subjected to L5/L6 spinal nerve ligation, sciatic nerve chronic constriction, and subcutaneous injection of complete Freund's adjuvant. Increased CGRP-IL was also detected in epidermal keratinocytes of transgenic mice with keratin-14 promoter driven overexpression of noggin, an antagonist to BMP-4 signaling. Transcriptome microarray, quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR), and Western blot analyses using laser-captured mouse epidermis from transgenics, monolayer cultures of human and mouse keratinocytes, and multilayer human keratinocyte organotypic cultures, revealed that keratinocytes express predominantly the beta isoform of CGRP. Cutaneous peptidergic innervation has been shown to express predominantly the alpha isoform of CGRP. Keratinocytes also express the cognate CGRP receptor components, Calcitonin receptor-like receptor (CRLR), Receptor activity-modifying protein 1 (RAMP1), CGRP-receptor component protein (RCP) consistent with known observations that CGRP promotes several functional changes in keratinocytes, including proliferation and cytokine production. Our results indicate that keratinocyte-derived CGRPβ may modulate epidermal homeostasis through autocrine/paracrine signaling and may contribute to chronic pain under pathological conditions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Limbal fibroblasts are known to regulate the maintenance and differentiation of the corneal epithelium including the limbal epithelial stem cells. This study examined the effect of limbal fibroblast conditioned media in a mouse model of limbal stem cell deficiency.
Limbal stem cell deficiency was created in C57/Bl6 mice by performing a limbus to limbus epithelial debridement. The mice were treated topically for 3 weeks with conditioned media derived from human limbal fibroblasts. The control mice were treated with skin fibroblast conditioned media or Dulbecco's serum-free medium.
The mice treated with limbal fibroblast conditioned media demonstrated substantial growth of corneal type epithelial cells on the corneal surface with less conjunctival goblet cells. By contrast, the control treated corneas were found to be covered primarily by conjunctival type epithelium.
Cell culture media conditioned by limbal fibroblasts appear to contain factor(s) that are therapeutically beneficial in a model of limbal stem cell deficiency. The current results further support the notion that the essential limbal stem cell niche is provided by limbal fibroblasts and suggest a new, non-invasive option in the treatment of limbal stem cell deficiency.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: microRNA-205 (miR-205) and miR-184 coordinately regulate the lipid phosphatase SHIP2 for Akt survival signaling in keratinocytes. As the PI3K-Akt pathway has also been implicated in regulating the actin cytoskeleton and cell motility, we investigated the role that these 2 miRNAs play in keratinocyte migration. We used antagomirs (antago) to reduce the levels of miR-205 and miR-184 in primary human epidermal keratinocytes (HEKs) and corneal epithelial keratinocytes (HCEKs) as well as direct SHIP2 silencing using siRNA oligos. Treatment of HEKs and HCEKs with antago-205 increased SHIP2 levels and impaired the ability of these cells to seal linear scratch wounds compared with untreated or irrelevant-antago treatments. In contrast, AKT signaling was enhanced and wounds sealed faster in HCEKs where miR-184 was suppressed, enabling miR-205 to inhibit SHIP2. Similar increases in migration were observed following direct SHIP2 silencing in HEKs. Furthermore, down-regulation of miR-205 resulted in an increase in Rho-ROCKI activity, phosphorylation of the actin severing protein cofilin, and a corresponding diminution of filamentous actin. The connection among miR-205, RhoA-ROCKI-cofilin inactivation, and the actin cytoskeleton represents a novel post-translational mechanism for the regulation of normal human keratinocyte migration.
The FASEB Journal 10/2010; 24(10):3950-9. DOI:10.1096/fj.10-157404 · 5.04 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: MicroRNA-21 negatively regulates several targets, thereby affecting tumorigenesis. However, its mechanism of action in human hepatocellular carcinoma is poorly understood, and no direct evidence has shown a correlation between microRNA-21 function and phenotype. In this study, we investigate the function of microRNA-21 as a potent oncomir and probe the relationship between microRNA-21, its targets, and phenotypic alterations.
We designed a set of rescue experiments using different combinations of anti-microRNA-21, siRNA, and a negative control to modulate the protein level of microRNA-21 targets and resulting phenotypic alterations. MicroRNA-21 was suppressed using anti-microRNA-21 to further uncover its effect on several critical signaling pathways.
We demonstrate that hepatocellular carcinoma is characterized by elevated levels of microRNA-21 and marked reductions of PTEN, PDCD4, and RECK expression. Silencing of PTEN and PDCD4 to prevent their induction by anti-microRNA-21 treatment led to decreased apoptosis and increased invasion, while silencing of RECK only led to increased invasion. Moreover, knockdown of microRNA-21 resulted in alterations of the Akt signaling pathway, the expression of p21 and MMP families, which are associated with apoptosis, and the cell cycle or invasiveness of cancer cells.
MicroRNA-21 simultaneously regulates multiple programs that enhance cell proliferation, apoptosis or tumor invasiveness by targeting PTEN, PDCD4, and RECK in hepatocellular carcinomas. Targeting of microRNA-21 is sufficient to limit tumor cell proliferation and invasion in a manner that is likely to involve associated changes in multiple targets, suggesting that suppression of microRNA-21 may be a novel approach for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma.
Journal of Hepatology 07/2010; 53(1):98-107. DOI:10.1016/j.jhep.2010.02.021 · 11.34 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To investigate the effect of microRNA-205 reduction by antagomirs on adhesion ability of normal human corneal epithelial keratinocytes (NHCEKs).
Antagomir-205, complementary and inhibitory to microRNA-205, was used to suppress endogenous microRNA-205 in NHCEKs. The adhesion ability of treated NHCEKs was then assessed by cell adhesion assay. Immunoblot and immunohistochemistry were conducted to determine the level of two focal adhesion-related proteins, focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and paxillin (Pax). Phalloidin staining was performed to measure the level of filamentous actin in antagomir-treated NHCEKs.
Antagomir-205 markedly reduced the level of microRNA-205 in NHCEKs and significantly enhanced adhesion ability of NHCEKs (P<0.01). Further protein analysis validated that inhibition of microRNA-205 increased the number of phosphorylated FAK and phosphorylated Pax, and decreased filamentous actin.
Our findings suggest that microRNA-205 has down-regulating effect on cell motility in NHCEKs.
Chinese Medical Sciences Journal 06/2010; 25(2):65-70. DOI:10.1016/S1001-9294(10)60024-7
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The longstanding concept that corneal epithelial stem cells reside mainly in the limbus is supported by the absence of major corneal epithelial differentiation markers, that is, K3 and K12 keratins, in limbal basal cells (these markers are expressed, however, in corneal basal cells, thus distinguishing the mode of keratin expression in corneal epithelium from that of all other stratified epithelia), the centripetal migration of corneal epithelial cells, the exclusive location of slow-cycling cells in the limbal basal layer, the superior in vitro proliferative potential of limbal epithelial cells, and the transplanted limbal cells' ability to reconstitute corneal epithelium in vivo (reviewed in refs 1-4). Moreover, previous data indicate that corneal and conjunctival epithelia represent two separate cell lineages (reviewed in refs 1-4). Majo et al. suggested, however, that corneal and conjunctival epithelia are equipotent, and that identical oligopotent stem cells are present throughout the corneal, limbal and conjunctival epithelia. We point out here that these suggestions are inconsistent with many known growth, differentiation and cell migration properties of the anterior ocular epithelia.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Despite their potential to regulate approximately one-third of the whole genome, relatively few microRNA (miRNA) targets have been experimentally validated, particularly in stratified squamous epithelia. Here we demonstrate not only that the lipid phosphatase SHIP2 is a target of miRNA-205 (miR-205) in epithelial cells, but, more importantly, that the corneal epithelial-specific miR-184 can interfere with the ability of miR-205 to suppress SHIP2 levels. This is the first example of a miRNA negatively regulating another to maintain levels of a target protein. Interfering with miR-205 function by using a synthetic antagomir, or by the ectopic expression of miR-184, leads to a coordinated damping of the Akt signaling pathway via SHIP2 induction. This was associated with a marked increase in keratinocyte apoptosis and cell death. Aggressive squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) cells exhibited elevated levels of miR-205. This was associated with a concomitant reduction in SHIP2 levels. Partial knockdown of endogenous miR-205 in SCCs markedly decreased phosphorylated Akt and phosphorylated BAD levels and increased apoptosis. We were able to increase SHIP2 levels in SCC cells after inhibition of miR-205. Therefore, miR-205 might have diagnostic value in determining the aggressivity of SCCs. Blockage of miR-205 activity with an antagomir or via ectopic expression of miR-184 could be novel therapeutic approaches for treating aggressive SCCs.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 12/2008; 105(49):19300-5. DOI:10.1073/pnas.0803992105 · 9.67 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We evaluated the expression and activation of Notch pathway genes in the adult human and murine corneal epithelium during proliferation.
The expression of Notch pathway genes in the limbal and central human corneal epithelium was compared by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Their expression pattern was examined by immunofluorescence and in situ hybridization. The temporal expression of Notch1 during murine wound healing was assessed by RT-PCR. Notch activity was determined using western blot for the Notch intracellular domain (NotchIC). The expression of Hes1 was evaluated in cell culture.
The expression of Notch1 and Jagged1 was higher in the human limbal epithelium while the expression of Hes1 and Hes5 was higher in the central cornea. Expression of Notch1, Jagged1, and Hes1 was found predominantly in the basal and immediate suprabasal cells. During neonatal corneal development, NotchIC was detected in occasional cells at P10 while at P15 and P90, it was found in the basal and early suprabasal layers. NotchIC was found to be lower in the limbal compared to central corneal epithelium. The expression of Notch1 was lower at 24 h post-wounding but was completely restored in six days. The levels of NotchIC were decreased at 24 h post-wounding and after application of topical phorbol myristate. In vitro, the expression of Hes1 was higher in confluent cells maintained under high calcium conditions.
The inverse correlation between Notch signaling and the proliferative status of the corneal epithelium is consistent with the idea that Notch plays a role in corneal epithelial differentiation.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: One of the major adverse effects of glucocorticoid therapy is cutaneous atrophy, often followed by the development of resistance to steroids. It is accepted that epithelial stem cells (SCs) located in the hair follicle bulge divide during times of epidermal proliferative need. We determined whether follicular epithelial SCs and their transit amplifying progeny were stimulated to proliferate in response to the chronic application of glucocorticoid fluocinolone acetonide (FA). After first two applications of FA, keratinocyte proliferation in the interfollicular epidermis (IFE) and hair follicles was minimal and resulted in significant epidermal hypoplasia. We observed that a 50% depletion of the interfollicular keratinocyte population triggered a proliferative response. Unexpectedly, less than 2% of the proliferating keratinocytes were located in the bulge region of the hair follicle, whereas 82% were in IFE. It is known that cell desensitization to glucocorticoids is mediated via temporary decrease of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) expression. We found that GR expression was significantly decreased in IFE keratinocytes after each FA treatment. In contrast, many bulge keratinocytes retained GR in the nucleus. Our results indicate that bulge keratinocytes, including follicular SCs, are more sensitive to the antiproliferative effect of glucocorticoids than basal keratinocytes, possibly due to the incomplete process of desensitization.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Glucocorticoids are potent inhibitors of mouse skin tumorigenesis. The glucocorticoid control of cellular functions is mediated via the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), a well-known transcription factor. Recently, we generated transgenic mice overexpressing GR under control of the keratin5 (K5) promoter, and showed that K5.GR animals are resistant to skin carcinogenesis. Follicular epithelial stem cells (SCs), located in the bulge region of the hair follicle, are believed to be one of the target cells for skin carcinogenesis. We found that the number of putative hair follicle SC detected as label-retaining cells was significantly less in the K5.GR transgenics compared to wild type (w.t.) littermates. We also showed that GR overexpression led to a reduction in the clonogenicity of the follicular epithelial SCs. We evaluated the global effect of GR on gene expression in a population of follicular SC-enriched bulge keratinocytes isolated by fluorescence activated cell sorting. We found that GR affected the expression of numerous bulge SC 'signature' genes, genes involved in the maintenance of SC and progenitor cells of non-epidermal origin and proapoptotic genes. Our findings underscore the important role of GR signaling in the homeostasis of follicular epithelial SCs, and suggest that the reduction in their number may underlie the tumor suppressor effect of GR in the skin.