Tracing the dynamics of gene transcripts after organismal death
Acquisition of epidermal barrier function occurs late in mouse gestation. Several days before birth a wave of barrier acquisition sweeps across murine fetal skin, converging on dorsal and ventral midlines. We investigated the molecular pathways active during epidermal barrier formation. Akt signaling increased as the barrier wave crossed epidermis and Jun was transiently dephosphorylated. Inhibitor experiments on embryonic explants showed that the dephosphorylation of Jun was dependent on both Akt and protein phosphatase 2A (Pp2a). Inhibition of Pp2a and Akt signaling also caused defects in epidermal barrier formation. These data are compatible with a model for developmental barrier acquisition mediated by Pp2a regulation of Jun dephosphorylation, downstream of Akt signaling. Support for this model was provided by siRNA-mediated knockdown of Ppp2r2a (Pr55alpha or B55alpha), a regulatory subunit of Pp2a expressed in an Akt-dependent manner in epidermis during barrier formation. Ppp2r2a reduction caused significant increase in Jun phosphorylation and interfered with the acquisition of barrier function, with barrier acquisition being restored by inhibition of Jun phosphorylation. Our data provide strong evidence that Ppp2r2a is a regulatory subunit of Pp2a that targets this phosphatase to Jun, and that Pp2a action is necessary for barrier formation. We therefore describe a novel Akt-dependent Pp2a activity that acts at least partly through Jun to affect initial barrier formation during late embryonic epidermal development.