The epidermal compartment is complex and organized into several strata composed of keratinocytes (KCs), including basal, spinous, granular, and corniWed layers. The continuous process of self-renewal and barrier formation is dependent on a homeostatic balance achieved amongst KCs involving proliferation, diVerentiation, and cell death. To determine genes responsible for initiating and maintaining a corniWed epidermis, organotypic cultures comprised entirely of stratiWed KCs creating epidermal equivalents (EE) were raised from a submerged state to an air/liquid (A/L) interface. Compared to the array proWle of submerged cultures containing KCs predominantly in a proliferative (relatively undiVerentiated) state, EEs raised to an A/L interface displayed a remarkably consistent and distinct proWle of mRNAs. Cultures lifted to an A/L interface triggered the induction of gene groups that regulate proliferation, diVerentiation, and cell death. Next, diVerentially expressed microRNAs (miRNAs) and long noncoding (lncRNA) RNAs were identiWed in EEs. Several diVerentially expressed miRNAs were validated by qRT-PCR and Northern blots. miRNAs 203, 205 and Let-7b were up-regulated at early time points (6, 18 and 24 h) but downregulated by 120 h. To study the lncRNA regulation in EEs, we proWled lncRNA expression by microarray and validated the results by qRT-PCR. Although the diVerential expression of several lncRNAs is suggestive of a role in epidermal diVerentiation, their biological functions remain to be elucidated. The current studies lay the foundation for relevant model systems to address such fundamentally important biological aspects of epidermal structure and function in normal and diseased human skin
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