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Stratified epithelia

Development | stem cells | disease

Mammalian skin is an ideal model system to study fundamental questions in stem cell and cancer biology

Specialized stratified epithelia cover the body surface, where they serve as barriers against the outside environment. These epithelia rapidly turnover throughout life and are maintained by progenitors that reside within the deepest, basal layer.


Our lab is broadly interested in how these epithelia are established, maintained, and disrupted in disease. We utilize both the mouse epidermis and oral epithelia as model systems to study stratified epithelial development, stem cells and cancer.




AGS3 antagonizes LGN to balance oriented cell divisions and cell fate choices in mammalian epidermis

Carlos P Descovich, Kendall J Lough, Akankshya Jena, Jessica J Wu, Jina Yom, Danielle C Spitzer, Manuela Uppalapati, Katarzyna M Kedziora, Scott E Williams. eLife. (2023) 12:e80403.

PMID: 37017303.

Pardon the Intrusion

Williams SE, Lough KJ. Current Biology (2020) 30(24):R1481-R1484. 

PMID: 33352130. 

Disruption of the nectin-afadin complex recapitulates features of the human cleft lip/palate syndrome CLPED1

Lough KJ, Spitzer DC, Bergman AJ, Wu JJ, Byrd KM, Williams SE. Development (2020) 13;147(21):dev189241. 

PMID: 32554531. 

Telophase correction refines division orientation in stratified epithelia

Lough KJ, Byrd KM, Descovich CP, Spitzer DC, Bergman AJ, Beaudoin GM 3rd, Reichardt LF, Williams SE. Elife (2019) 13;8:e49249. 

PMID: 31833472.

Heterogeneity within Stratified Epithelial Stem Cell Populations Maintains the Oral Mucosa in Response to Physiological Stress

Byrd KM, Piehl NC, Patel JH, Huh WJ, Sequeira I, Lough KJ, Wagner BL, Marangoni P, Watt FM, Klein OD, Coffey RJ, Williams SE. Cell Stem Cell (2019) 25(6):814-829.e6. 

PMID: 31809739.

An Immunocompetent Mouse Model of HPV16(+) Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Carper MB, Troutman S, Wagner BL, Byrd KM, Selitsky SR, Parag-Sharma K, Henry EC, Li W, Parker JS, Montgomery SA, Cleveland JL, Williams SE, Kissil JL, Hayes DN, Amelio AL.

Cell Reports (2019) 29(6):1660-1674.e7. PMID: 31693903.

Closing the gap: mouse models to study adhesion in secondary palatogenesis

Lough KJ, Byrd KM, Spitzer DC, and Williams SE. J Dent Res (2017) 96(11):1210-1220. 

PMID: 28817360. [Special Issue on Orofacial Clefting, Craniofacial and Dental Anomalies] 

LGN plays distinct roles in oral epithelial stratification, filiform papilla morphogenesis and hair follicle development

Byrd KM, Lough KJ, Patel JH, Descovich CP, Curtis TA and Williams SE. Development (2016) 143(15): 2803-17. 

PMID: 27317810. [Selected for Cover, F1000 reviewed]

Asymmetric cell divisions promote Notch-dependent epidermal differentiation

Williams SE, Beronja S, Pasolli HA and Fuchs E. Nature (2011) 470: 353-358. 

PMID: 21331036. [Comment in Nat Rev Genetics 12: 226; F1000 reviewed].

View full list of publications here.

Contact us


University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

605 Brinkhous-Bullitt Building,

Chapel Hill, NC 27599




Office: 919-962-8961
Lab: 919-966-2737

  • @SWilliamsLab
Join us

We are always looking for highly motivated scientists at all levels of training

(Undergrad, Grad, PostDoc)

Undergraduate and Post-Docs may send a C.V and a letter of intent here.

Graduate students may apply directly to UNC's BBSP graduate program.

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