Keratins are a family of structurally related proteins that form the intermediate filament cytoskeleton in epithelial cells. The 58-kD keratin CK-5 is highly similar to other type II keratins and less similar to type I keratins and other intermediate filament proteins. The 58-kD keratin is regulated by retinoids in several tissues and is one of four keratins abundantly expressed in epidermal keratinocytes, where it may be important in maintaining structural integrity of the integument (1). Keratin 5 (CK-5) mRNA and protein are shown to be expressed in normal mammary epithelial cells in culture and are absent from tumor-derived cell lines. This makes CK-5 an important marker in the tumorigenic process, distinguishing normal from tumor cells, and decreased CK-5 expression correlates with tumorigenic progression (2). Dowling-Degos disease (DDD) is an autosomal dominant genodermatosis characterized by progressive and disfiguring reticulate hyperpigmentation of the flexures. Loss of function of CK-5 suggests a crucial role for keratins in the organization of cell adhesion, melanosome uptake, organelle transport, and nuclear anchorage (3).
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