Basonuclin is a protein possessing three pairs of zinc fingers and a nuclear localization signal. Expression of the gene is largely confined to keratinocytes of stratified squamous epithelia and hair follicles. In the epidermis and in stratified epidermal cultures, basonuclin is present in the nuclei of cells in or close to the basal layer but not in the nuclei of cells in more superficial layers. The Ki-67 protein, a nuclear marker for any stage of the multiplication cycle is present in only a subclass of basonuclin-containing cells. In cultured keratinocytes, the disappearance of basonuclin mRNA is associated with loss of colony-forming ability and the appearance of mRNA for involucrin, a protein characteristic of terminal differentiation. In hair follicles, the largest reservoir of basonuclin-containing cells is the outer root sheath, which contains precursors of differentiated cells of the hair shaft and of the epidermis. Basonuclin is not a cell cycle marker but is likely instead to be a regulatory molecular whose presence in the keratinocyte is linked to the maintenance of proliferative capacity and prevention of terminal differentiation.

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