Keratinocytes isolated from human epidermis and subsequently cultured may form clones if they are 11 micron or less in diameter but are irreversibly committed to further enlargement and terminal differentiation if they are 12 micron or more in diameter. When a founding cell of 11 micron or less forms a small rapidly growing clone in culture, the cells of that clone are able to found new colonies even when their diameter is as great as 20 micron. As the clone becomes larger and grows more slowly, the maximal size of its clonogenic cells is reduced toward that of the epidermis. A cultured cell of up to 20 micron in diameter can, when it divides, give rise to clonogenic progeny smaller than itself, thus reversing the process of enlargement. Cells larger than 20 micron cannot divide and therefore cannot be rescued from terminal differentiation. It is concluded that when keratinocytes multiply rapidly, they extend reversibly the maximal size at which they are capable of generating clones into the range usually characteristic of terminally differentiating cells. It is proposed that this mechanism enables the keratinocyte to accommodate an increased rate of multiplication to its need to attain a large size during terminal differentiation
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