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Epigenetic regulation of epidermal homeostasis


Keratinocytes in the skin are poised to respond to environmental insults by activating a proliferation-repair response and also by stimulating resident immune cells to initiate an inflammatory response. This is mediated by a panoply of cytokines, chemokines and stress-induced antigens expressed by keratinocytes. The rapid activation and subsequent suppression of the genes involved in this response implies that they are maintained in an epigenetic state in keratinocytes that is poised for transcription but responsive to environmental cues. Our studies with the chromatin remodeler Mi-2¿ in keratinocytes provide strong support for this hypothesis. Mi-2¿ has a very specific and central role in guarding against the inappropriate activation of a keratinocyte's stress response and repair functions by maintaining genes in these pathways in a repressed state. Among the Mi-2¿ targets is TSLP, best known as a pro-inflammatory signal in other contexts, which in contrast plays a key protective role to resolve an epigenetically induced stress response that occurs when Mi-2¿ function is blocked. The role of Mi-2¿ and TSLP in keratinocyte homeostasis is investigated by three specific aims. In the first aim, we establish the genes regulated by Mi-2¿ in wild type keratinocytes, as well as the network of transcription factors and epigenetic regulators that contribute to Mi-2¿'s regulation of the stress- response gene signature. In the second aim, we further evaluate the hypothesis that Mi-2¿ functions by establishing a local chromatin environment that influences the recruitment or activity of transcription regulators at pro- inflammatory genes, such as TSLP. In third aim, we address the role of TSLP, a select Mi-2¿ target, as a protective factor in stress-mediated skin pro-inflammatory responses. Taken together our studies seek to establish the regulatory nexus that connects the epigenetic, transcriptional and cellular mechanisms supporting keratinocyte homeostasis and stress responses

Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.