The nude mouse is an athymic mutant whose immunological deficiency has been exploited for transplantation of normal and diseased xenogeneic tissue. Histologically, its skin has no unusual features apart from the absence of hair. We report here a biochemical study of its epidermis, with comparison to the hairless mouse (which is devoid of hair but otherwise functionally normal). The epidermal glycoproteins were probed with the lectin, concanavalin A (Con A). Fluorescein isothyocyanate (FΙTC)-Con A overlays of cryostat skin sections gave a similar fluorescent pattern for both mouse strains: all the viable epidermal cell layers were labeled but not the stratum corneum. In contrast, when different populations of keratinocytes that were separated on Percoll gradients were analyzed by gel electrophoresis, and the gels then overlaid with iodinated Con A, all the epidermal layers, including the stratum corneum, were labeled. For all the epidermal cell layers there are substantial differences between the two mouse strains. We observe changes in the glycoprotein distribution with the stage of differentiation. Comparison with our earlier data for human epidermis indicates that the discrepancies between the nude mouse and the hairless mouse are much greater than those between the latter and man. The most striking difference is the absence in the stratum corneum of the nude mouse of a 40 K glycoprotein which is the dominant feature for the hairless mouse and for man. The gel patterns point to functional discrepancies in the epidermis of the nude mouse, particularly in the stratum corneum, not evident histologically or with FITC-Con A.

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