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Differentiation. 1979;15(1):7-25.

Identification and characterization of epithelial cells in mammalian tissues by immunofluorescence microscopy using antibodies to prekeratin.


The occurrence of intermediate-sized filaments containing prekeratin-like proteins ('cytokeratins') has been examined in various organs of rat and cow by electron microscopy and by immunofluorescence microscopy on frozen sections using antibodies to defined constitutive proteins of various types of intermediate-sized filaments (prekeratin, vimentin, desmin). Positive cytokeratin reaction and tonofilament-like structures have been observed in the following epithelia: epidermis; ductal, secretory, and myoepithelial cells of sweat glands; mammary gland duct; myoepithelial cells of lactating mammary gland; milk secreting cells of cow; ductal, secretory, and myoepithelial cells of various salivary glands; tongue mucosa; bile duct; excretory duct of pancreas; intestinal mucosa; urothelium; trachea; bronchi; thymus reticulum, including Hassall corpuscles; mesothelium; uterus; and ciliated cells of oviduct. None of the epithelial cells mentioned has shown significant reaction with antibodies to vimentin, the major component of the type of intermediate-sized filaments predominant in mesenchymal cells. The widespread, if not general occurrence of cytokeratin filaments in epithelial cells is emphasized, and it is proposed to use this specific structure as a criterion for true epithelial character or origin.

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