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Immunohistological distribution of the tight junction components ZO-1 and occludin in regenerating human epidermis

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Background Molecular characterization of tight junction proteins during the past few years has provided novel methods for studying these specialized junctions. Tight junctions have recently been characterized in the granular cell layer of human epidermis, and the role of these junctions in the epidermal barrier is now being re-evaluated.

Objectives To investigate the expression of tight junction components during the re-epithelialization of suction blisters and the regeneration of the corneal layer after tape stripping.

Methods Suction blisters were induced in eight healthy volunteers, and skin biopsies were taken 4 or 6 days afterwards. The restoration of epidermal barrier function was evaluated by measuring water evaporation (WE) from the wound area. Tape stripping was performed on three volunteers to remove the corneal layer. The tissues were immunolabelled using indirect immunofluorescence or the avidin–biotin method.

Results Prior to the biopsies, WE from the blister wounds was markedly elevated in comparison with normal skin. In the epidermis surrounding the blister, occludin and ZO-1 were expressed in the granular cell layer only. In the hyperproliferative zone adjacent to the border of the blister, the expression of ZO-1 was redistributed into several spinous cell layers, while occludin expression was restricted to the upper epidermis. In the leading edge of migrating keratinocytes, both proteins were expressed exclusively in the most superficial layer of keratinocytes. Double labelling for ZO-1 and involucrin showed expression of both proteins in the same layers of hyperproliferative keratinocytes, while the expression patterns were clearly different in the migrating keratinocytes.

Conclusions Tight junctions of regenerating epidermis may provide a functional barrier prior to regeneration of the corneal layer.
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Keywords: epidermal diffusion barrier; intercellular junctions; involucrin; tight junction; wound healing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Medical Biochemistry and 2: Surgery, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland 3: Department of Dermatology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland 4: Departments of Dermatology,

Publication date: 2003-08-01

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