Type VII collagen, a genetically distinct member of the collagen family, is present in the cutaneous basement membrane zone as an integral component of the anchoring fibrils. We have recently isolated several cDNAs that correspond to human type VII collagen sequences. One of these cDNAs (clone K-131) was utilized to examine type VII collagen gene expression in cultures of human cells by Northern analyses, in situ hybridizations and indirect immunofluorescence. Northern hybridizations revealed the presence of an approximately 9-kb mRNA transcript, and indicated a high level of expression in epidermal keratinocytes as well as in an oral epidermoid carcinoma cell line (KB), while the expression was considerably lower in skin fibroblasts and in several virally or spontaneously transformed epithelial cell lines. In situ hybridizations of cultured keratinocytes supported the notion of a high level of gene expression. Indirect immunofluorescence of skin from a 19-wk fetus revealed type VII collagen gene expression at the dermal-epidermal basement membrane zone. These results indicate that several different cell types including epidermal keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts express the type VII collagen gene, but epidermal keratinocytes may be the primary cell source of type VII collagen in developing human skin.
J Ryynänen, S Sollberg, M G Parente, L C Chung, A M Christiano, J Uitto