Background Seborrhoeic keratosis (SK) is a common skin disease associated with skin ageing and photoageing, but only limited studies have been performed on SK and the senescence of keratinocytes.
Objectives We sought to clarify the genetic basis of SK and the senescence of keratinocytes.
Methods Expression of p16, cyclins A, D and E, p21, p53, retinoblastoma (Rb) gene product and telomerase-associated protein 1 (TP1) in SK was examined by immunohistochemistry. DNA fragmentation in SK was detected by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate-biotin nick end labelling method. We cultured keratinocytes from SK lesions and non-lesional epidermis and examined expression of p16, observed morphology of the cultured cells by light and electron microscopy and measured survival time.
Results p16, a cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, was expressed in all cells from SK lesions, whereas normal keratinocytes expressed p16 only in the granular cells. Other factors such as cyclins A, D and E, p21, p53, Rb gene product, and TP1, were not expressed in SK cells. These results suggest that p16 expression is a marker of SK and that p16 has a role in the pathogenesis of SK. DNA fragmentation was not detected in four of five SK tissue samples; one of the SK tissue samples showed DNA fragmentation only in the superficial upper layer of an SK lesion, suggesting that apoptosis was inhibited in SK cells. In contrast, normal epidermis showed DNA fragmentation in the granular and squamous layers. Immunohistochemical examination of cultured SK cells also revealed the presence of p16. A greater number of SK cells survived after 3 weeks of culture in comparison with normal keratinocytes. Features of senescence, such as a balloon-like appearance after lengthy culture and increased amounts of tonofilaments in cytoplasm, were observed in SK cells in culture.
Conclusions These results suggest that SK is a benign neoplasm where keratinocytes in a senescent condition and G1 arrest are accumulated.