Rac1 is a Rho subfamily small GTPase which is highly expressed in epidermal keratinocytes. In mice the significance of Rac1 for the maintenance of the epidermis has been controversial. In keratinocytes from human origin, the role of Rac1 in the control of growth/differentiation is still obscure. In this study we used RNA interference to induce specific inhibition of Rac1 expression in cultured human keratinocytes and analyzed the consequences on proliferation and differentiation. We found that the autocrine proliferation of keratinocytes is unaltered by Rac1 silencing. However, the suppression of Rac1 induced premature differentiation as revealed by the expression of markers (keratin 10, involucrin), but the involved mechanism is independent of the activity of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase. Rather, we found that the effects of Rac1 silencing on keratinocytes differentiation are concomitant with negative regulation of the Ser62/Thr58 phosphorylation on the transcription factor c-myc, a mechanism known to control post-translational stability of the c-myc protein. Thus, in growing human keratinocytes, Rac1 could impede the expression of premature differentiation markers, probably by exerting positive control on c-myc activity and its binding to specific promoters.
Copyright 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.