The mammalian epidermis undergoes constant renewal, replenished by a pool of stem cells and terminal differentiation of their progeny. This is accompanied by changes in gene expression and morphology that are orchestrated, in part, by epigenetic modifiers. Here, we define the role of the histone acetyltransferase KAT2A in epidermal homeostasis and provide a comparative analysis that reveals key functional divergence with its paralog KAT2B. In contrast to the reported function of KAT2B in epidermal differentiation, KAT2A supports the undifferentiated state in keratinocytes. RNA-seq analysis of KAT2A- and KAT2B- depleted keratinocytes revealed dysregulated epidermal differentiation. Depletion of KAT2A led to premature expression of epidermal differentiation genes in the absence of inductive signals, whereas loss of KAT2B delayed differentiation. KAT2A acetyltransferase activity was indispensable in regulating epidermal differentiation gene expression. The metazoan-specific N terminus of KAT2A was also required to support its function in keratinocytes. We further showed that the interplay between KAT2A- and KAT2B-mediated regulation was important for normal cutaneous wound healing in vivo. Overall, these findings reveal a distinct mechanism in which keratinocytes use a pair of highly homologous histone acetyltransferases to support divergent functions in self-renewal and differentiation processes.

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