Colocalization of glial fibrillary acidic protein, metallothionein, and MHC II in human, rat, NOD/SCID, and nude mouse skin keratinocytes and fibroblasts

J Invest Dermatol. 2007 Mar;127(3):555-63. doi: 10.1038/sj.jid.5700575. Epub 2006 Sep 28.


The expression of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) by perivascular cells of many mammalian organs suggests an as yet unknown function of this intermediate filament protein in the maintenance of homeostasis and vascular permeability at the blood-tissue interface. Although a similar situation may exist at the air-tissue interface, the cellular distribution of GFAP in skin tissue has never been demonstrated. To approach this issue, we have employed immunofluorescence and Western blotting techniques to detect GFAP in skin sections of young and adult humans, normal rodents, and two types of mutant mice, as well as in rat lung sections, and in cultured human keratinocytes and fibroblasts. Colocalization with antigens known to be associated with GFAP in other tissues was also tested. Epidermal and hair follicle keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts showed distinct staining for GFAP as well as colocalization with alpha-actin, metallothionein, and antigens of the class-II major histocompatibility complex (MHC II). GFAP was also identified in rat alveolar fibroblasts which, in common with keratinocytes, form part of the air-tissue interface. GFAP was upregulated together with MHC II in nude mice but was barely detectable in the skin of non-obese diabetic severe combined immunodeficiency mice, suggesting a possible involvement in antigen-presenting functions. The intriguing distribution of a common set of antigens both in certain cells of the integumentary system and at the blood-tissue interfaces of internal organs suggests the involvement of these proteins in universal mechanisms controlling tissue homeostasis and protection.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / cytology*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein / biosynthesis*
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / biosynthesis*
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / cytology*
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Lung / metabolism
  • Metallothionein / biosynthesis*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mice, SCID
  • Rats


  • Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Metallothionein