Since transglutaminases create covalent gamma-glutamyl-epsilon-lysine cross-links between extracellular matrix proteins they are prime candidates for stabilizing tissue during wound healing. Therefore, we studied the temporo-spatial expression of transglutaminase activity in skin regenerating from cultured epithelial autografts in severely burned children by the specific incorporation of monodansylcadaverine into cryostat sections from skin biopsies obtained between 5 d to 17 mo after grafting. The dansyl label was subsequently immunolocalized in the epidermis, dermal connective tissue, and along the basement membrane. Incubation of cryosections of normal and regenerating skin with purified tissue transglutaminase confirmed the dermo-epidermal junction and the papillary dermis as targets for this enzyme and revealed that in regenerating skin transamidation of the basement membrane zone was completed only 4-5 mo after grafting. Immunoelectron microscopy revealed that three distinct regions on the central portion of anchoring fibrils were positive for monodansylcadaverine in normal skin which were negative during the initial phase of de novo formation of anchoring fibrils in regenerating skin. Biochemically, we identified collagen VII as potential substrate for tissue transglutaminase. Thus, tissue transglutaminase appears to play an important role not only in cross-linking of the papillary dermis but also of the dermo-epidermal junction in particular.
M Raghunath, B Höpfner, D Aeschlimann, U Lüthi, M Meuli, S Altermatt, R Gobet, L Bruckner-Tuderman, B Steinmann