Tissue stem cells (SCs) divide infrequently as a protective mechanism against internal and external stresses associated with aging. Here, we demonstrate that slow- and fast-cycling SCs in the mouse skin epidermis undergo distinct aging processes. Two years of lineage tracing reveals that Dlx1+ slow-cycling clones expand into the fast-cycling SC territory, while the number of Slc1a3+ fast-cycling clones gradually declines. Transcriptome analysis further indicate that the molecular properties of each SC population are altered with age. Mice lacking fibulin 7, an extracellular matrix (ECM) protein, show early impairments resembling epidermal SC aging, such as the loss of fast-cycling clones, delayed wound healing, and increased expression of inflammation- and differentiation-related genes. Fibulin 7 interacts with structural ECM and matricellular proteins, and the overexpression of fibulin 7 in primary keratinocytes results in slower proliferation and suppresses differentiation. These results suggest that fibulin 7 plays a crucial role in maintaining tissue resilience and epidermal SC heterogeneity during skin aging.
Keywords: epidermal stem cells; extracellular matrix; skin aging; slow-cycling cell; stem cell aging.
© 2022 The Authors.