A 110-115-kD protein is present at levels 27-fold higher in migratory epithelium in the rat cornea than in stationary epithelium. This protein represents 2.7% of the total protein in migratory epithelium 6-h postabrasion wound and 0.1% of the total protein in stationary epithelium. Our findings demonstrate that this 110-115-kD protein is vinculin. In Western blots comparing proteins from migratory and control epithelium, antibody against vinculin cross-reacted with the 110-115-kD protein. Using immunoslot blots, vinculin was determined to be present at maximal levels 6 h postabrasion wound, at levels 22- and 8-fold higher than control at 18 and 48 h, respectively, returning to control levels 72 h postwounding. Vinculin was also localized by indirect immunohistochemistry in migrating corneal epithelium. 3-mm scrape wounds were allowed to heal in vivo for 20 h. In flat mounts of these whole wounded corneas, vinculin was localized as punctate spots in the leading edge of migrating epithelium. In cryostat sections, vinculin was localized as punctate spots along the basal cell membranes of the migrating sheet adjacent to the basement membrane and in patches between cells as well as diffusely throughout the cell. Only very diffuse localization with occasional punctate spots between adjacent superficial cells was present in stationary epithelium. The increased synthesis of vinculin during migration and the localization of vinculin at the leading edge of migratory epithelium suggest that vinculin may be involved in cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion as the sheet of epithelium migrates to cover a wound.

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