Langerhans cells and SFRP2/Wnt/beta-catenin signalling control adaptation of skin epidermis to mechanical stretching

Joanna K. Ledwon, Elbert E. Vaca, Chiang C. Huang, Lauren J. Kelsey, Jennifer L. McGrath, Jacek Topczewski, Arun K. Gosain*, Jolanta M. Topczewska

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Skin can be mechanically stimulated to grow through a clinical procedure called tissue expansion (TE). Using a porcine TE model, we determined that expansion promptly activates transcription of SFRP2 in skin and we revealed that in the epidermis, this protein is secreted by Langerhans cells (LCs). Similar to well-known mechanosensitive genes, the increase in SFRP2 expression was proportional to the magnitude of tension, showing a spike at the apex of the expanded skin. This implies that SFRP2 might be a newly discovered effector of mechanotransduction pathways. In addition, we found that acute stretching induces accumulation of b-catenin in the nuclei of basal keratinocytes (KCs) and LCs, indicating Wnt signalling activation, followed by cell proliferation. Moreover, TE-activated LCs proliferate and migrate into the suprabasal layer of skin, suggesting that LCs rebuild their steady network within the growing epidermis. We demonstrated that in vitro hrSFRP2 treatment on KCs inhibits Wnt/b-catenin signalling and stimulates KC differentiation. In parallel, we observed an accumulation of KRT10 in vivo in the expanded skin, pointing to TE-induced, SFRP2-augmented KC maturation. Overall, our results reveal that a network of LCs delivers SFRP2 across the epidermis to fine-tune Wnt/b-catenin signalling to restore epidermal homeostasis disrupted by TE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)764-775
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Langerhans cells
  • SFRP2
  • Wnt signalling
  • epidermis
  • mechanical forces
  • mechanotransduction
  • skin growth
  • tissue expansion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Cell Biology


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