Cytokeratin polypeptides of human epidermis, of epithelia microdissected from various zones of the pilosebaceous tract (outer root-sheath of hair follicle, sebaceous gland), and of eccrine sweat-glands have been separated by one- and two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and characterized by binding of cytokeratin antibodies and by peptide mapping. The epithelium of the pilosebaceous tract has three major keratin polypeptides in common with interfollicular epidermis (two basic components of mol wts 58,000 and 56,000 and one acidic polypeptide of mol wt 50,000); however, it lacks basic keratin polypeptides in the mol wt range of 64,000-68,000 and two acidic keratin-polypeptides of mol wts 56,000 and 56,500 and contains an additional characteristic acidic cytokeratin of mol wt 46,000. Another cytokeratin polypeptide of mol wt 48,000 that is prominent in hair-follicle epithelium is also found in nonfollicular epidermis of foot sole. Both epidermis and pilosebaceous tract are different from eccrine sweat-gland epithelium, which also contains two major cytokeratins of mol wts 52,500 and 54,000 (isoelectric at pH 5.8-6.1) and a more acidic cytokeratin of mol wt 40,000. A striking similarity between the cytokeratins of human basal-cell epitheliomas and those of the pilosebaceous tract has been found: all three major cytokeratins (mol wts 58,000; 50,000; 46,000) of the tumor cells are also expressed in hair-follicle epithelium. The cytokeratin of mol wt 46,000, which is the most prominent acidic cytokeratin in this tumor, is related, by immunological and peptide map criteria, to the acidic keratin-polypeptides of mol wts 48,000 and 50,000, but represents a distinct keratin that is also found in other human tumor cells such as in solid adamantinomas and in cultured HeLa cells. The results show that the various epithelia present in skin, albeit in physical and ontogenic continuity, can be distinguished by their specific cytokeratin-polypeptide patterns and that the cytoskeleton of basal-cell epitheliomas is related to that of cells of the pilosebaceous tract.

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