The role of epigenetic regulators in epidermal and oral stem cell control

The skin epidermis and the lingual epithelium are stratified epithelia that regenerate throughout our lives. Both tissues form a barrier that protects our internal organs against external insults and contain specialized appendages, essential for proper functioning. The epidermis gives rise to hair follicles and sweat glands that are essential for thermoregulation. The lingual epithelium contains taste buds and filiform papillae, two structures essential for food processing. These structures originate from epithelial stem cells localized to the basal layer of the skin and lingual epithelium. During embryonic development, both tissues follow a precise differentiation program that results in the formation of stratified barrier epithelia with unique cell types essential for the function and regeneration each appendage type. Another interesting feature of stratified epithelia is a repetitive spacing pattern of the hair follicles and taste bud structures.   

 

In the lab, we investigate the role of epigenetic regulation, specifically the function of Polycomb complexes, in cell fate decisions and patterning processes during tissue development. We are interested in understanding How the epithelial cell identity is maintained in the basal progenitors and how Polycomb complexes regulate the formation of multiple cell types from the same progenitor. Mechanistically, we are interested in the interplay between repressive and activating functions of Polycomb complexes in controlling the expression of epidermal genes. Finally, we are interested in the interaction of epigenetic mechanisms with transcription factors and signaling pathways during tissue patterning.