Ultrastructural localization of keratinocyte surface associated heparan sulphate proteoglycans in human epidermis

Tammi, R.H.; Hyyryläinen, A.M.; Maibach, H.I.; Tammi, M.I.

Histochemistry 87(3): 243-250


ISSN/ISBN: 0301-5564
PMID: 2443472
Accession: 006859007

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Fixation and staining procedures were developed for the electron microscopic demonstration of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) in human epidermis. En bloc staining with cuprolinic blue (CB), ruthenium red (RR) and tannic acid (TA) in the primary fixative were applied for the localization of the GAGs. Removal of the epidermal basal lamina and underlying dermis was a prerequisite for stain penetration. In CB-fixed specimens 50 mm long, rod-like granules were found attached to keratinocyte cell surfaces, while the RR- and TA-fixed specimens contained round granules (diameter 10 and 30 nm, respectively). The stainability of the CB-positive granules in the presence of 0.3 mol/l MgCl2 indicated that they contained sulphated GAGs. Prefixation digestions of epidermal sheets with chondroitinase ABC, Steptomyces hyaluronidase, and heparitinase showed that the RR-positive granules also contained sulphated GAGs, mostly heparan sulphate. The granules visualized with TA on keratinocytes were susceptible to heparitinase treatment, but the abundance of TA-staining suggested that TA also stained structures other than heparan sulphate. The EM data was in accordance with the 35SO4 labelling experiments showing that heparan sulphate was the major sulphated GAG synthesized in epidermis, whereas chrondroitin/dermatan sulphates comprised about one fifth of the total activity incorporated. The distributions of the CB-. RR- and TA-positive granules on cell surfaces were similar. The morphology of the proteoglycan granules was probably determined by the extent of the GAG-chain collapse following binding to each of the dyes.