CRISPR-assisted receptor deletion reveals distinct roles for ERBB2 and ERBB3 in skin keratinocytes.
While the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is an established regulator of skin development and homeostasis, the functions of the related tyrosine kinase receptors ERBB2 and ERBB3 in this tissue have only recently been examined. Previously reported, skin-specific deletion of each of these receptors in mice resulted in similar defects in keratinocyte proliferation and migration, resulting in impaired wound healing and tumorigenesis. Because both ERBB2 and ERBB3 are targets for treating an array of cancer types, it is important to examine the consequences of receptor inhibition in human keratinocytes. Here, we employed the CRISPR/Cas9 technology to generate HaCaT cells (an established human keratinocyte cell line) lacking ERBB2 or ERBB3. HaCaT clones lacking ERBB2 or ERBB3 showed comparable reductions in cell proliferation as assessed by BrdU staining. Apoptosis, in contrast, was reduced in ERBB3-deficient HaCaT cells only. Assessment of cell migration using a wound healing (scratch) assay showed that the closure of the wound gaps was completed by 48 h in mock and in ERBB3 knockout clones. In contrast, this process was considerably delayed in ERBB2 knockout clones, and a complete closure of the gap in the latter cells did not occur before 72 h. In conclusion, both ERBB2 and ERBB3 are essential for normal proliferation of skin keratinocytes, but in contrast to ERBB3, ERBB2 is essential for migration of human keratinocytes. These observations might bear significance to patient adverse effects of therapeutic agents targeting ERBB2 and ERBB3.
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