Pig-a, an X-linked gene, is a key component of glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchor biosynthesis based on the fact that lack of this gene causes deficiencies of hundreds of GPI-anchored proteins. We previously demonstrated an essential role for the GPI-anchor in keratinocyte differentiation using male Pig-a knockout mice (K5-Cre:Pig-a flox). Here we analyzed keratinocytes of the female K5-Cre:Pig-a flox/+ mice with heterozygous knockout of Pig-a. These cells exhibited the mosaic pattern of GPI-anchor positive and negative expression typical of random inactivation of the X chromosome. The female K5-Cre:Pig-a flox/+ mice appeared slightly wrinkled with dry skin at birth and white scales starting from 4 d after birth without any histologic abnormality. This phenotype was temporary and milder than that seen in the male knockout mice. To characterize the fate of GPI-anchor-positive cells more clearly, we introduced a transgenic mouse line that expresses enhanced green fluorescent protein in GPI-anchored form into female K5-Cre:Pig-a flox/+ mice and monitored GPI-anchor-positive keratinocytes in situ. Within 36 h after birth, the upper layer of the GPI-anchor-negative zone in epidermis was replaced by the GPI-anchor-positive counterpart. This tissue replacement was accompanied by recovery in trans-epidermal water loss over a similar time course. These observations suggest that the GPI-anchoring is associated with the barrier function as well as with organized differentiation of the epidermis after birth.
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