The cytoprotective keratins (K) compose the intermediate filaments of epithelial cells and their inherited and spontaneous mutations give rise to keratinopathies. For example, mutations in K1/K5/K10/K14 cause epidermal skin diseases whereas simple epithelial K8/K18/K19 variants predispose to development of several liver disorders. Due to their abundance, tissue- and context-specific expression, keratins constitute excellent diagnostic markers of both neoplastic and non-neoplastic diseases. During injury and in disease, keratin expression levels, cellular localization or posttranslational modifications are altered. Accumulating evidence suggests that these changes modulate multiple processes including cell migration, tumor growth/metastasis and development of infections. Therefore, our understanding of keratins is shifting from diagnostic markers to active disease modifiers.
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