Single-keratinocyte transcriptomic analyses identify different clonal types and proliferative potential mediated by FOXM1 in human epidermal stem cells

Nat Commun. 2021 May 4;12(1):2505. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22779-9.


Autologous epidermal cultures restore a functional epidermis on burned patients. Transgenic epidermal grafts do so also in genetic skin diseases such as Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa. Clinical success strictly requires an adequate number of epidermal stem cells, detected as holoclone-forming cells, which can be only partially distinguished from the other clonogenic keratinocytes and cannot be prospectively isolated. Here we report that single-cell transcriptome analysis of primary human epidermal cultures identifies categories of genes clearly distinguishing the different keratinocyte clonal types, which are hierarchically organized along a continuous, mainly linear trajectory showing that stem cells sequentially generate progenitors producing terminally differentiated cells. Holoclone-forming cells display stem cell hallmarks as genes regulating DNA repair, chromosome segregation, spindle organization and telomerase activity. Finally, we identify FOXM1 as a YAP-dependent key regulator of epidermal stem cells. These findings improve criteria for measuring stem cells in epidermal cultures, which is an essential feature of the graft.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Self Renewal / genetics
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Epidermal Cells / cytology*
  • Epidermal Cells / metabolism
  • Epidermolysis Bullosa, Junctional / genetics
  • Epidermolysis Bullosa, Junctional / metabolism
  • Forkhead Box Protein M1 / genetics
  • Forkhead Box Protein M1 / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Ontology
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / cytology*
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Multigene Family
  • RNA-Seq
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcriptome / genetics*
  • YAP-Signaling Proteins


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • FOXM1 protein, human
  • Forkhead Box Protein M1
  • Transcription Factors
  • YAP-Signaling Proteins
  • YAP1 protein, human