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Differentiation. 1987;36(3):234-54.

Cytokeratins in certain endothelial and smooth muscle cells of two taxonomically distant vertebrate species, Xenopus laevis and man.

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Division of Membrane Biology and Biochemistry, German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg.


Using immunolocalization techniques, electron microscopy, and gel electrophoresis combined with immunoblotting, we have noted remarkable interspecies differences in the expression of cytokeratins in certain nonepithelial cells. In the present study we describe, in two taxonomically distant vertebrate species, the African clawed toad Xenopus laevis and man, endothelial and smooth muscle cells which express cytokeratin intermediate filaments (IFs), in addition to vimentin and/or desmin IFs. In Xenopus, all endothelia seem to produce both vimentin and cytokeratin IFs. As well, certain smooth muscle bundles located in the periphery of the walls of the esophagus and the urinary bladder produce small amounts of cytokeratin IFs in addition to IFs containing vimentin or desmin or both. The amphibian equivalents of human cytokeratins 8 and 18 have been identified in these nonepithelial tissues. In human endothelial cells, immunocytochemical reactions with certain cytokeratin antibodies are restricted to a rare subset of blood vessels. Vessels of this type were first noted in synovial and submucosal tissues, but also occur in some other locations. Cytokeratins have also been detected in certain groups of smooth muscles, such as those present in the walls of some blood vessels in synovial tissue and umbilical cord. Here, the synthesis of low levels of cytokeratins 8 and 18, sometimes with traces of cytokeratin 19, has been demonstrated in smooth muscle cells by colocalization with myogenic marker proteins, such as desmin and/or the smooth-muscle-specific isoform of alpha-actin. Possible reasons for the differences in cytokeratin expression between adjacent endothelia in man, and smooth-muscle structures in both species, as well as biologic and histodiagnostic implications of these findings, are discussed.

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