Cell Biology

Perp Finds Its Purpose

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Science  08 Apr 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5719, pp. 167
DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5719.167e

During mammalian development, the single-layered ectoderm surrounding the embryo initiates a stratification program that culminates in the formation of the epidermis, an outer barrier that protects the organism from dehydration and environmental insults. The transcription factor p63 —a relative of the renowned tumor suppressor p53—plays a critical role in this developmental program, but little is known about its targets or the mechanisms involved.

Ihrie et al. show that p63 directly regulates a gene whose product helps epithelial cells stick to each other. This gene, called Perp, encodes a membrane protein of the tetraspanin type and is highly expressed in developing skin. Perp localizes to desmosomes, specialized intercellular adhesive complexes that maintain the structural integrity of the skin and are crucial for its strength and resiliency. Newborn mice deficient in Perp display defects in desmosomes, and they die a few days later with severe skin blistering. The authors hypothesize that Perp plays a role in the shuttling, assembly, or stabilization of core desmosomal proteins. — PAK

Cell 120, 843 (2005).

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