Interfollicular epidermal stem cells (IFE-SCs) have self-renewal and differentiation potentials, and maintain epidermal homeostasis. Stem cells in vivo are regulated by the surrounding environment called niche to function properly, however, IFE-SC niche components are not fully understood. In order to elucidate the mechanisms of keeping epidermal homeostasis and of skin aging, and also to develop new therapeutic technologies for skin diseases, we searched for niche factors that regulate IFE-SCs. We found that laminin-332, a basement membrane component, was highly expressed at the tips of the dermal papillae, where IFE-SCs are localized, and that the stem cells by themselves expressed laminin-332. Knockdown of laminin-332 during the culture of IFE-SC-model cells to construct 3-dimensional epidermis in vitro resulted in failure to form proper structure, although no significant change was observed in either cell growth or apoptosis. Pre-coating of the culture insert with laminin-332 restored the normal formation of 3-dimensional epidermis. From these results, it was shown that laminin-332 is an essential niche component for the proper differentiation of IFE-SCs.
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