We have studied the expression of an integral cell surface proteoglycan, syndecan, during the healing of cutaneous wounds, using immunohistochemical and in situ hybridization methods. In normal mouse skin, both syndecan antigen and mRNA were found to be expressed exclusively by epidermal and hair follicle cells. After incision and subsequent suturing, remarkably increased amounts of syndecan on the cell surfaces of migrating and proliferating epidermal cells and on hair follicle cells adjacent to wound margins were noted. This increased syndecan expression was shown to be a consequence of greater amounts of syndecan mRNA. Induction was observed already 1 d after wounding, was most significant at the time of intense cell proliferation, and was still observable 14 d after incision. The migrating cells of the leading edge of the epithelium also showed enhanced syndecan expression, although clearly less than that seen in the proliferating epithelium. The merging epithelial cells at the site of incision showed little or no syndecan expression; increased syndecan expression, however, was detected during later epithelial stratification. When wounds were left unsutured, in situ hybridization experiments also revealed scattered syndecan-positive signals in the granulation tissue near the migrating epidermal sheet. By immunohistochemical analysis, positive staining in granulation tissue was observed around vascular endothelial cells in a subpopulation of growing capillaries. Induction of syndecan in granulation tissue both at the protein and mRNA levels was temporally and spatially highly restricted. Granulation tissue, which formed in viscose cellulose sponge cylinders placed under the skin of rats, was also found to produce 3.4 and 2.6 kb mRNA species of syndecan similar to that observed in the normal murine mammary epithelial cell line, NMuMG. These results suggest that syndecan may have a unique and important role as a cell adhesion and a growth factor-binding molecule not only during embryogenesis but also during tissue regeneration in mature tissues.

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