Simple epithelial keratins (SEKs) are found primarily in single-layered simple epithelia and include keratin 7 (K7), K8, K18-K20, and K23. Genetically engineered mice that lack SEKs or overexpress mutant SEKs have helped illuminate several keratin functions and served as important disease models. Insight into the contribution of SEKs to human disease has indicated that K8 and K18 are the major constituents of Mallory-Denk bodies, hepatic inclusions associated with several liver diseases, and are essential for inclusion formation. Furthermore, mutations in the genes encoding K8, K18, and K19 predispose individuals to a variety of liver diseases. Hence, as we discuss here, the SEK cytoskeleton is involved in the orchestration of several important cellular functions and contributes to the pathogenesis of human liver disease.
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