BACKGROUND: Epigenetic modulation of gene expression occurs by various methods, including DNA methylation and histone modification. DNA methylation of specific genes may affect the chromatin structure, preventing access by the transcriptional machinery. Although gene expression is dramatically changed during keratinocyte differentiation, there is no evidence of epigenetic modulation during the process of epidermal stratification. OBJECTIVE: We investigated whether epigenetic modulation is involved in keratinocyte differentiation-specific gene regulation. METHODS: We used trypsin to produce epidermal fragmentation (named T1-T4) and performed a morphological analysis using hematoxylin-eosin stain and cytokeratin expression based on reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. We then constructed a DNA methylation microarray. RESULTS: Each epidermal fragment showed morphological features of the epithelial layer. T1 represented the basal layer, T2 was the spinous layer, T3 was the granular layer, and T4 was the cornified layer. The level of the K14 proliferation marker was increased in the T1 fraction, and the level of K10 differentiation marker was increased in the T2-T4 fractions. Using a methylation microarray with the T1 and T4 fractions, we obtained many hypermethylated and hypomethylated genes from differentiated keratinocytes. CONCLUSION: The importance of epigenetic modulation in target gene expression during keratinocyte differentiation is identified.
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