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J Clin Invest. 1988 Jul;82(1):248-54.

Cell-to-cell communication within intact human skin.

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Dermatology Clinic, University of Geneva, Medical School, Switzerland.


We have characterized cell-to-cell communication (coupling) within intact human skin by microinjecting single keratinocytes with a gap junction-permeant tracer (Lucifer Yellow). 25-50 keratinocytes from different layers of the epidermis were seen to be coupled after most injections (n = 31). A few noncommunicating cells were also microinjected (n = 3) or observed within large territories of coupled keratinocytes. Microinjections of dermal fibroblasts demonstrated an extensive coupling (greater than 100 fibroblasts); however, none of the keratinocyte (n = 34) or fibroblast (n = 3) injections revealed coupling between the epidermal and dermal compartments. Cell coupling was found to be more extensive in epidermal ridges than in suprapapillary plates and, in both regions, was less extensive after injection of the basal layer of the epidermis than after that of the suprabasal layers. This study shows that junctional cell-to-cell communications take place in normal and fully differentiated human tissue. The quantitative data gathered also indicate a regional heterogeneity of keratinocyte-to-keratinocyte communication within intact adult skin and the lack of effect of retinoids on this pattern.

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