Although numerous hair proteins have been studied biochemically and many have been sequenced, relatively little is known about their in situ distribution and differential expression in the hair follicle. To study this problem, we have prepared several mouse monoclonal antibodies that recognize different classes of human hair proteins. Our AE14 antibody recognizes a group of 10-25K hair proteins which most likely corresponds to the high sulfur proteins, our AE12 and AE13 antibodies define a doublet of 44K/46K proteins which are relatively acidic and correspond to the type I low sulfur keratins, and our previously described AE3 antibody recognizes a triplet of 56K/59K/60K proteins which are relatively basic and correspond to the type II low sulfur keratins. Using these and other immunological probes, we demonstrate the following. The acidic 44K/46K and basic 56-60K hair keratins appear coordinately in upper corticle and cuticle cells. The 10-25K, AE14-reactive antigens are expressed only later in more matured corticle cells that are in the upper elongation zone, but these antigens are absent from cuticle cells. The 10-nm filaments of the inner root sheath cells fail to react with any of our monoclonal antibodies and are therefore immunologically distinguishable from the cortex and cuticle filaments. Nail plate contains 10-20% soft keratins in addition to large amounts of hair keratins; these soft keratins have been identified as the 50K/58K and 48K/56K keratin pairs. Taken together, these results suggest that the precursor cells of hair cortex and nail plate share a major pathway of epithelial differentiation, and that the acidic 44K/46K and basic 56-60K hard keratins represent a co-expressed keratin pair which can serve as a marker for hair/nail-type epithelial differentiation.

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