In a previous report we have described the effects of expression of D-type cyclins in epithelial tissues of transgenic mice. To study the involvement of the D-type cyclin partner cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (CDK4) in epithelial growth and differentiation, transgenic mice were generated carrying the CDK4 gene under the control of a keratin 5 promoter. As expected, transgenic mice showed expression of CDK4 in the epidermal basal-cell layer. Epidermal proliferation increased dramatically and basal cell hyperplasia and hypertrophy were observed. The hyperproliferative phenotype of these transgenic mice was independent of D-type cyclin expression because no overexpression of these proteins was detected. CDK4 and CDK2 kinase activities increased in transgenic animals and were associated with elevated binding of p27(Kip1) to CDK4. Expression of CDK4 in the epidermis results in an increased spinous layer compared with normal epidermis, and a mild hyperkeratosis in the cornified layer. In addition to epidermal changes, severe dermal fibrosis was observed and part of the subcutaneous adipose tissue was replaced by connective tissue. Also, abnormal expression of keratin 6 associated with the hyperproliferative phenotype was observed in transgenic epidermis. This model provides in vivo evidence for the role of CDK4 as a mediator of proliferation in epithelial cells independent of D-type cyclin expression.
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