Asymmetric cell divisions promote Notch-dependent epidermal differentiation.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Nature, Volume 470, Issue 7334, p.353-8 (2011)


Animals, Carrier Proteins, Cell Differentiation, Cell Division, Cells, Cultured, Epidermis, Female, Gene Knockdown Techniques, KERATINOCYTES, Male, MICE, Microtubule-Associated Proteins, Mitotic Spindle Apparatus, Nuclear Proteins, Receptors, Notch, Signal Transduction, Skin


Stem and progenitor cells use asymmetric cell divisions to balance proliferation and differentiation. Evidence from invertebrates shows that this process is regulated by proteins asymmetrically distributed at the cell cortex during mitosis: Par3-Par6-aPKC, which confer polarity, and Gα(i)-LGN/AGS3-NuMA-dynein/dynactin, which govern spindle positioning. Here we focus on developing mouse skin, where progenitor cells execute a switch from symmetric to predominantly asymmetric divisions concomitant with stratification. Using in vivo skin-specific lentiviral RNA interference, we investigate spindle orientation regulation and provide direct evidence that LGN (also called Gpsm2), NuMA and dynactin (Dctn1) are involved. In compromising asymmetric cell divisions, we uncover profound defects in stratification, differentiation and barrier formation, and implicate Notch signalling as an important effector. Our study demonstrates the efficacy of applying RNA interference in vivo to mammalian systems, and the ease of uncovering complex genetic interactions, here to gain insights into how changes in spindle orientation are coupled to establishing proper tissue architecture during skin development.