Abnormal skin scarring causes functional impairment, psychological stress, and high socioeconomic cost. Evidence shows that altered mechanotransduction pathways have been linked to both inflammation and fibrosis, and that focal adhesion kinase (FAK) is a key mediator of these processes. We investigated the importance of keratinocyte FAK at the single cell level in key fibrogenic pathways critical for scar formation. Keratinocytes were isolated from wildtype and keratinocyte-specific FAK-deleted mice, cultured, and sorted into single cells. Keratinocytes were evaluated using a microfluidic-based platform for high-resolution transcriptional analysis. Partitive clustering, gene enrichment analysis, and network modeling were applied to characterize the significance of FAK on regulating keratinocyte subpopulations and fibrogenic pathways important for scar formation. Considerable transcriptional heterogeneity was observed within the keratinocyte populations. FAK-deleted keratinocytes demonstrated increased expression of genes integral to mechanotransduction and extracellular matrix production, including Igtbl, Mmpla, and Col4a1. Transcriptional activities upon FAK deletion were not identical across all single keratinocytes, resulting in higher frequency of a minor subpopulation characterized by a matrix-remodeling profile compared to wildtype keratinocyte population. The importance of keratinocyte FAK signaling gene expression was revealed. A minor subpopulation of keratinocytes characterized by a matrix-modulating profile may be a keratinocyte subset important for mechanotransduction and scar formation.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited