Keratinocytes of the upper granular layers contain unique round-to-oval granules, 100-500 nm in diameter, in their peripheral cytoplasm. These granules (known as membrane coating granules [MCG], or lamellar granules) fuse with the apical cell surface of uppermost granular cells and discharge their contents into the intercellular space, where they are believed to play a role in establishing the permeability barrier of the epidermis and possibly in regulating the orderly desquamation of terminally differentiated keratinocytes. Using two monoclonal antibodies originally prepared against hair follicle antigens, we have identified a 25K epidermal protein in association with both MCG-like granules in the peripheral cytoplasm of granular cells as well as MCG-derived intercellular material. This protein is relatively basic (pI greater than 8), largely aqueous soluble, methionine deficient, and is relatively abundant in epidermis (comprising up to approximately 0.1% of soluble proteins). Its distribution is restricted to the granular layer of keratinized (cornified) stratified squamous epithelia. The identification of this protein component opens new avenues for studying the molecular mechanisms underlying the establishment of permeability barrier and/or regulation of desquamation.

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