Comprehensive analysis of keratin gene clusters in humans and rodents

Eur J Cell Biol. 2004 Feb;83(1):19-26. doi: 10.1078/0171-9335-00354.


Here, we present the comparative analysis of the two keratin (K) gene clusters in the genomes of man, mouse and rat. Overall, there is a remarkable but not perfect synteny among the clusters of the three mammalian species. The human type I keratin gene cluster consists of 27 genes and 4 pseudogenes, all in the same orientation. It is interrupted by a domain of multiple genes encoding keratin-associated proteins (KAPs). Cytokeratin, hair and inner root sheath keratin genes are grouped together in small subclusters, indicating that evolution occurred by duplication events. At the end of the rodent type I gene cluster, a novel gene related to K14 and K17 was identified, which is converted to a pseudogene in humans. The human type II cluster consists of 27 genes and 5 pseudogenes, most of which are arranged in the same orientation. Of the 26 type II murine keratin genes now known, the expression of two new genes was identified by RT-PCR. Kb20, the first gene in the cluster, was detected in lung tissue. Kb39, a new ortholog of K1, is expressed in certain stratified epithelia. It represents a candidate gene for those hyperkeratotic skin syndromes in which no K1 mutations were identified so far. Most remarkably, the human K3 gene which causes Meesmann's corneal dystrophy when mutated, lacks a counterpart in the mouse genome. While the human genome has 138 pseudogenes related to K8 and K18, the mouse and rat genomes contain only 4 and 6 such pseudogenes. Our results also provide the basis for a unified keratin nomenclature and for future functional studies.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Databases as Topic
  • Genome
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Keratins / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Models, Genetic
  • Multigene Family*
  • Mutation
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Rats
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Species Specificity


  • Keratins