Molecular Biology of the Cell
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Integrin-linked kinase (ILK) is key for normal epidermal morphogenesis, but little is known about its role in hair follicle stem cells and epidermal regeneration. Hair follicle stem cells are important contributors to newly formed epidermis following injury. We inactivated the Ilk gene in the keratin 15 - expressing stem cell population of the mouse hair follicle bulge. Loss of ILK expression in these cells resulted in impaired cutaneous wound healing, with substantially decreased wound closure rates. ILK-deficient stem cells produced very few descendants that moved toward the epidermal surface and into the advancing epithelium that covers the wound. Furthermore, those few mutant cells that homed in the regenerated epidermis exhibited a reduced residence time. Paradoxically, ILK-deficient bulge stem cells responded to anagen growth signals and contributed to newly regenerated hair follicles during this phase of hair follicle growth. Thus ILK plays an important modulatory role in the normal contribution of hair follicle stem cell progeny to the regenerating epidermis following injury. © 2011 Nakrieko et al.