Aberrant differentiation of keratinocytes disrupts the skin barrier and causes a series of skin diseases. However, the molecular basis of keratinocyte differentiation is still poorly understood. In the present study, we examined the expression of C7ORF41 using tissue microarrays by immunohistochemistry and found that C7ORF41 is specifically expressed in the basal layers of skin epithelium and its expression is gradually decreased during keratinocytes differentiation. Importantly, we corroborated the pivotal role of C7ORF41 during keratinocyte differentiation by C7ORF41 knockdown or overexpression in TPA-induced Hacat keratinocytes. Mechanismly, we first demonstrated that C7ORF41 inhibited keratinocyte differentiation mainly through formatting a complex with IKKα in the cytoplasm, which thus blocked the nuclear translocation of IKKα. Furthermore, we also demonstrated that inhibiting the PKCα/ERK signaling pathway reversed the reduction in C7ORF41 in TPA-induced keratinocytes, indicating that C7ORF41 expression could be regulated by upstream PKCα/ERK signaling pathway during keratinocyte differentiation. Collectively, our study uncovers a novel regulatory network PKCα/ERK/C7ORF41/IKKα during keratinocyte differentiation, which provides potential therapeutic targets for skin diseases.

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