What determines differentiation of urothelial umbrella cells?

Eur J Cell Biol. 2004 Feb;83(1):27-34. doi: 10.1078/0171-9335-00351.


Cytokeratins, uroplakins and the asymmetric unit membrane are biochemical and morphological markers of urothelial differentiation. The aim of our study was to follow the synthesis, subcellular distribution and supramolecular organization of differentiation markers, cytokeratins and uroplakins, during differentiation of umbrella cells of mouse bladder urothelium. Regenerating urothelium after destruction with cyclophosphamide was used to simulate de-novo differentiation of cells, which was followed from day 1 to day 14 after cyclophosphamide injection. Cytokeratin 7 and uroplakins co-localized in the subapical cytoplasm of superficial cells from the early stage of differentiation on. At early stages of superficial cell differentiation cytokeratin 7 was filamentary organized, and rare uroplakins were found on the membranes of relatively small cytoplasmic vesicles, which were grouped in clusters under the apical membrane. Later, cytokeratin 7 gradually reorganized into a continuous trajectorial network, and uroplakins became organized into plaques of asymmetric unit membrane, which formed fusiform vesicles. After insertion of fusiform vesicles into the apical plasma membrane, the surface acquired microridged appearance of umbrella cells. Cytokeratin 20 appeared as the last differentiation marker of umbrella cells. Cytokeratin 20 was incorporated into the pre-existing trajectorial cytokeratin network. These results indicate that differentiation of urothelial cells starts with the synthesis of differentiation-related proteins i.e., cytokeratins and uroplakins, and later with their specific organization. We consider that the umbrella cell has reached its final stage of differentiation when uroplakins form plaques of asymmetric unit membrane that are inserted into the apical plasma membrane and when cytokeratin 20 becomes included in a trajectorial cytokeratin network in the subapical area of cytoplasm.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cyclophosphamide / pharmacology
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Keratin-7
  • Keratins / metabolism
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Time Factors
  • Urinary Bladder / cytology
  • Urothelium / cytology*
  • Urothelium / metabolism


  • Keratin-7
  • Krt7 protein, mouse
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Keratins
  • Cyclophosphamide