In the final stages of terminal differentiation in the epidermis and other squamous epithelia, a approximately 15 nm thick protein layer called the cornified cell envelope (CE) assembles on the keratinocytes' inner surface. Its constituent proteins are covalently crosslinked by the action of transglutaminases. Recent studies have indicated that the expression of CE precursor proteins may vary in different tissues. To investigate such variations further, we have studied the CEs of two different keratinizing epithelia of mouse: epidermis and forestomach, with particular focus on their contents of loricrin and the small proline-rich proteins (SPRs). To this end, we have applied electron microscopic immunocytochemistry and estimated the CE protein compositions by mathematical modeling of their amino acid compositions. Ultrastructurally, forestomach resembles the epidermis in having well defined cornified and granular layers. Minor but significant differences are: in forestomach, striated material resembling lamellar granules is intercalated between the cornified squames; and in forestomach granular layer cells, loricrin-containing L-granules are more abundant, and filaggrin-containing F-granules less abundant than in epidermis. In forestomach, dense labeling with anti-SPR1 antibody was observed at the margin of cornified layer cells; and in the granular layer, diffuse but positive labeling of both cytoplasm and nucleus. In contrast, epidermis was uniformly negative. Isolated forestomach CEs (but not epidermal CEs), labeled positively on the cytoplasmic side, consistent with the presence of covalently crosslinked SPR1. Our compositional analysis predicts the content of loricrin in forestomach CEs to be very high (approximately 65%), as in the epidermis, and accompanied by approximately 18% content of total SPRs. Of these, a substantial proportion should be SPR1, according to our immunolabeling data. In contrast, epidermal CEs are calculated to have a much lower amount of SPRs or SPR-like proteins (approximately 8%), with a negligible content of SPR1. Thus both kinds of CEs have loricrin as their major constituent but differ in their respective complements of SPRs, which are thought to inter-connect loricrin molecules in the final phase of CE assembly. Applying a basic concept of materials science, it may be that the observed differences in their SPR contents reflect differences in the mechanical and chemical properties required for the function of the respective CEs.
- © 1996 by Company of Biologists