Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How stem cells make skin

14.09.2009
EMBL scientists come a step closer to understanding skin, breast and other cancers

Stem cells have a unique ability: when they divide, they can either give rise to more stem cells, or to a variety of specialised cell types.

In both mice and humans, a layer of cells at the base of the skin contains stem cells that can develop into the specialised cells in the layers above. Scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Monterotondo, in collaboration with colleagues at the Centro de Investigaciones Energ¨¦ticas, Medioambientales y Tecnologicas (CIEMAT) in Madrid, have discovered two proteins that control when and how these stem cells switch to being skin cells. The findings, published online today in Nature Cell Biology, shed light on the basic mechanisms involved not only in formation of skin, but also on skin cancer and other epithelial cancers.

At some point in their lives, the stem cells at the base of the skin stop proliferating and start differentiating into the cells that form the skin itself. To do so, they must turn off the ¡®stem cell programme¡¯ in their genes and turn on the ¡®skin cell programme¡¯. Researchers suspected that a family of proteins called C/EBPs might be involved in this process, as they were known to regulate it in other types of stem cell, but had so far failed to identify which C/EBP protein controlled the switch in skin. Claus Nerlov and his group at EMBL Monterotondo discovered it was not one protein, but two: C/EBP¦Á and C/EBP¦Â.

The EMBL researchers used genetic engineering techniques to delete the genes that encode C/EBP¦Á and ¦Â specifically in the skin of mouse embryos, and found that without these proteins the skin of the mice did not form properly.

¡°Mice with neither C/EBP¦Á nor ¦Â had taut and shiny skin that couldn¡¯t keep the water inside their bodies¡±, Nerlov explains, ¡°they lacked many of the proteins that make skin mechanically strong and water tight, and they died of de-hydration shortly after birth¡±.

However, a single working copy of either the gene for C/EBP¦Á or the gene for C/EBP¦Â was enough to ensure that skin developed properly. This means that the two proteins normally do the same job in the skin¡¯s stem cells - an unexpected redundancy, which may have arisen because there are so many stem cells in skin that a tight control on proliferation is needed to avoid problems like cancer. Or it may simply be a by-product of the fact that these two proteins have different functions in other situations, such as wound healing or repair of sunlight-induced skin damage.

One of the hallmarks of epithelial cancers - which include skin, breast, and oral cancers - is that they have genes turned on which would normally only be expressed in embryonic stem cells, and which may help cancer cells divide indefinitely. Such genes become re-expressed in the skin in the absence of C/EBPs. So, by understanding how C/EBP¦Á and ¦Â turn off such ¡®stem cell¡¯ programmes, researchers hope to come a step closer to finding ways to fight such cancers.

When Nerlov and colleagues looked at how C/EBP¦Á and -¦Â work in the skin, they found that these proteins also regulate a number of other molecules that control skin development. Several important pathways known to control skin and hair formation were improperly activated in the mice lacking C/EBP¦Á and -¦Â.

¡°This is a very important discovery¡±, says Nerlov. ¡°It opens up a lot of new areas, because we can see how these proteins control virtually every other molecule known to regulate skin cell differentiation. It seems to be a key piece in the puzzle of how our skin is formed and maintained throughout life.¡±

Policy regarding use
Press and Picture Releases
EMBL press and picture releases including photographs, graphics, movies and videos are copyrighted by EMBL. They may be freely reprinted and distributed for non-commercial use via print, broadcast and electronic media, provided that proper attribution to authors, photographers and designers is made.
Anna-Lynn Wegener
Press Officer
EMBL
Meyerhofstrasse 1
D-69117 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 387452
Fax: +49 6221 387525
anna.wegener@embl.de

Anna-Lynn Wegener | EMBL
Further information:
http://www.embl.org
http://www.embl.de/aboutus/communication_outreach/media_relations/2009/090913_Monterotondo/index.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The irresistible fragrance of dying vinegar flies
16.08.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie

nachricht How protein islands form
15.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

Im Focus: Scientists improve forecast of increasing hazard on Ecuadorian volcano

Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Instituto Geofisico--Escuela Politecnica Nacional (IGEPN) of Ecuador, showed an increasing volcanic danger on Cotopaxi in Ecuador using a powerful technique known as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).

The Andes region in which Cotopaxi volcano is located is known to contain some of the world's most serious volcanic hazard. A mid- to large-size eruption has...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight

16.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Transporting spin: A graphene and boron nitride heterostructure creates large spin signals

16.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues

16.08.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>