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J Invest Dermatol. 1991 Dec;97(6):1061-72.

Identification of late differentiation antigens of human cornified epithelia, expressed in re-organized desmosomes and bound to cross-linked envelope.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cell Biology, Purpan School of Medicine, University of Toulouse III, France.


Little is known about the process leading to desquamation in cornified epithelia. We describe late differentiation antigens (Ag) specific for human cornified squamous epithelia, defined by two murine monoclonal antibodies (MoAb), G36-19 and B17-21, produced after immunization with plantar stratum corneum (SC). Histologically, in epidermis both Ag are cytoplasmic in the lower stratum granulosum (SG), become pericellular in the upper SG, and progressively disappear in the lower SC. In contrast, they persist up to the desquamating corneocytes in the palmoplantar epidermis and hard palate epithelium, as well as in the three cornified epithelial components of the inner root sheath (IRS) of the hair follicle (HF). Cytologically, both Ag are expressed as surface spots only on rough corneocytes. They are largely preserved on cross-linked envelopes (CLE) of the fragile type. Ultrastructurally, both Ag appear in keratinosome-like cytoplasmic vesicles in the upper stratum spinosum (SS) and the SG keratinocytes, then are found in both the regular and reorganizing desmosomes of the SG keratinocytes, and lastly in the corneocyte-specific reorganized desmosomes we propose to name corneodesmosomes. On CLE, the Ag are located on fibrils gathered over the external side of the envelope. Immunochemically, the G36-19--defined epitope is sequential and shared by five non-cytokeratin protein antigens of molecular weight 33.5, 36.5, 40, 49, and 52 kD, the higher molecular weight polypeptides being possibly precursors of the 33.5-kD protein. In contrast, the B17-21 epitope, unaccessible by immunoblotting, is probably conformational. In long-term cultured keratinocytes, the Ag are only expressed when epidermal sheets are morphologically differentiated. The expression is enhanced in the absence of fetal calf serum (FCS) and of epidermal growth factor (EGF). G36-19 and B17-21 Ag participate in a corneodesmosome-CLE superstructure that is probably involved in corneocyte cohesiveness and partly responsible for the mechanical resistance of the SC. These Ag are relevant markers for studying desmosomal maturation during epidermal differentiation and desquamation.

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