Investigation of K14/K5 as a stem cell marker in the limbal region of the bovine cornea
To link to this article DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013192
Background: Identification of stem cells from a corneal epithelial cell population by specific molecular markers has been investigated previously. Expressions of P63, ABCG2 and K14/K5 have all been linked to mammalian corneal epithelial stem cells. Here we report on the limitations of K14/K5 as a limbal stem cell marker. Methodology/Principal Findings: K14/K5 expression was measured by immunohistochemistry, Western blotting and Real time PCR and compared between bovine epithelial cells in the limbus and central cornea. A functional study was also included to investigate changes in K5/14 expression within cultured limbal epithelial cells undergoing forced differentiation. K14 expression (or its partner K5) was detected in quiescent epithelial cells from both the limbal area and central cornea. K14 was localized predominantly to basal epithelial cells in the limbus and suprabasal epithelial cells in the central cornea. Western blotting revealed K14 expression in both limbus and central cornea (higher levels in the limbus). Similarly, quantitative real time PCR found K5, partner to K14, to be expressed in both the central cornea and limbus. Following forced differentiation in culture the limbal epithelial cells revealed an increase in K5/14 gene/protein expression levels in concert with a predictable rise in a known differentiation marker. Conclusions/Significance: K14 and its partner K5 are limited not only to the limbus but also to the central bovine cornea epithelial cells suggesting K14/K5 is not limbal specific in situ. Furthermore K14/K5 expression levels were not lowered (in fact they increased) within a limbal epithelial cell culture undergoing forced differentiation suggesting K14/K5 is an unreliable maker for undifferentiated cells ex vivo.