Keratinocyte transglutaminase in human skin and oral mucosa: Cytoplasmic localization and uncoupling of differentiation markers

Bach Mai Ta, George T. Gallagher, Rupa Chakravarty, Robert H. Rice

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34 Scopus citations


Expression of keratinocyte transglutaminase, a specific differentiation marker, has been examined by immunogold-silver cytochemistry in human epidermis and oral epithelium, and in oral mucosal hyperplasia and neoplasia. Two major findings have been obtained. First, considerable immunoreactivity was evident not only at the plasma membrane (the site of cross-linked envelope formation) but also in the cytoplasm of spinous cells, suggesting a cytoplasmic function for this transglutaminase. Staining at the cell border was seen principally in the granular layer of orthokeratinized epithelium (epidermis, hard palate), the outer spinous cells of ortho- and parakeratinized epithelium and in the suprabasal cells showing squamous differentiation in benign and malignant neoplasms. By contrast, diffuse cytoplasmic staining was observed in the upper spinous layer of the normal epithelium and benign lesions. The cytoplasmic immunoreactivity, which extended nearly to the basal layer in hyperkeratosis of the oral mucosa, was evident in two of three verrucous carcinomas examined. In keeping with their undifferentiated character, invasive nests of squamous cell carcinoma and basaloid epithelium in benign and neoplastic lesions were immunonegative for transglutaminase. The second major finding was that lesions of severe oral epithelial dysplasia, immunonegative for transglutaminase, were capable of expressing involucrin immunoreactivity, indicating an uncoupling of keratinocyte programming. These results suggest that immunogold-silver staining for transglutaminase may be useful in evaluating the degree of differentiation in benign and malignant oral epithelial proliferation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-638
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1990


  • Involucrin
  • Keratinocyte
  • Transglutaminase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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