Cultured epithelial autografts (CEA) derived from sole skin were transplanted to full-thickness wounds excised to muscle fascia over a variety of diverse body sites in 12 pediatric patients treated for acute burns or giant congenital nevi. The skin regenerated from the grafts was biopsied from 7 days to 6 years after grafting. The resultant epidermal phenotype was analyzed histologically and by immunohistochemical localization of keratin 9 (K9) as objective evidence of sole-type site-specific differentiation. Expression of K9 was also verified by one-dimensional gel electrophoresis of epidermal cytoskeletal extracts and K9 immunoblot analysis. Grafts prepared from epidermis of axilla, groin or foreskin and transplanted to wounds of comparable depth in an identical manner in the same patients served as controls of postgrafting differentiation. Biopsies of sole skin from amputation specimens from patients of comparable age served as normal positive controls, and biopsies of nonsole skin from patients of comparable age served as normal negative controls. As early as 2 weeks postgrafting, the histologic appearance of sole-derived CEA differed substantively from that of axilla- or groin-derived CEA controls and displayed a phenotype characteristic of sole skin with a thick compact stratum corneum, a thick stratum granulosum, and a distinct stratum lucidum. In sole-derived grafts rete ridges regenerated within 2 months postgrafting, whereas nonsole-derived grafts required 4-6 months for rete ridge regeneration. Once acquired, the sole skin phenotype was maintained long-term by all sole-derived CEA. In vitro, sole-derived keratinocytes synthesized little, if any, K9. However, within 7 days after grafting, K9 synthesis by multiple suprabasal keratinocytes was seen within the epidermis regenerated from sole-derived CEA. Protein of K9 appeared progressively more diffuse throughout the suprabasal layers, attaining a confluent pattern of expression comparable to normal controls of sole skin by 6 to 12 months postgrafting, and the confluent pattern of suprabasal K9 synthesis was maintained long-term. The results demonstrate that site-specific differentiation is an intrinsic property of postnatal human keratinocytes and can be expressed and maintained in a permissive environment in the absence of dermal tissue.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Developmental Biology
- Cell Biology