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PloS one

Basal keratinocytes contribute to all strata of the adult zebrafish epidermis.


PMID 24400120

Abstract

The epidermis of terrestrial vertebrates is a stratified epithelium and forms an essential protective barrier. It is continually renewed, with dead corneocytes shed from the surface and replaced from a basal keratinocyte stem cell population. Whilst mouse is the prime model system used for epidermal studies, there is increasing employment of the zebrafish to analyse epidermis development and homeostasis, however the architecture and ontogeny of the epidermis in this system are incompletely described. In particular, it is unclear if adult zebrafish epidermis is derived entirely from the basal epidermal stem cell layer, as in the mouse, or if the most superficial keratinocyte layer is a remnant of the embryonic periderm. Furthermore, a relative paucity of cellular markers and genetic reagents to label and manipulate the basal epidermal stem cell compartment has hampered research. Here we show that the type I keratin, krtt1c19e, is a suitable marker of the basal epidermal layer and identify a krtt1c19e promoter fragment able to drive strong and specific expression in this cell type. Use of this promoter to express an inducible Cre recombinase allowed permanent labelling of basal cells during embryogenesis, and demonstrated that these cells do indeed generate keratinocytes of all strata in the adult epidermis. Further deployment of the Cre-Lox system highlighted the transient nature of the embryonic periderm. We thus show that the epidermis of adult zebrafish, as in the mouse, derives from basal stem cells, further expanding the similarities of epidermal ontogeny across vertebrates. Future use of this promoter will assist genetic analysis of basal keratinocyte biology in zebrafish.

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