Cell surface carbohydrate changes during embryonic and fetal skin development

J Invest Dermatol. 1986 Jul;87(1):81-5. doi: 10.1111/1523-1747.ep12523582.


Monoclonal antibodies to four type 2 chain carbohydrate antigens were used for immunohistochemical studies of embryonic and fetal skin. The antibodies detected N-acetyllactosamine and 3 fucosyl substitutes of this, blood group antigen H, Lex, and Ley. Periderm consistently stained for N-acetyllactosamine, Lex and Ley. The H antigen showed a variable and weak expression on peridermal cells from day 57 to day 84 estimated gestation age (EGA). After this period the H antigen was no longer expressed at peridermal cells. In the epidermis, N-acetyllactosamine was present on all cells until the age of 15 weeks EGA. After this period N-acetyllactosamine could only be demonstrated on basal cells after treatment with neuraminidase, indicating a masking of N-acetyllactosamine by sialic acid. The H antigen could not be demonstrated in the epithelium before 14 weeks EGA. At this time it appeared on spinous and granular cells in the epithelium. Lex stained both basal cells and intermediate cells positively, until keratinization around week 20 EGA. Ley is never expressed on basal cells. It is weakly expressed by intermediate cells from week 14 EGA. Our study demonstrates that N-acetyllactosamine is maximally expressed at the early stages of development, but may later be modified either by sialylation or fucosylation into blood group H or Lex, or by Ley substances, respectively. The orderly and well-defined changes observed during skin differentiation are in agreement with other studies, which have demonstrated the existence of chemically defined cell surface changes accompanying cell differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • ABO Blood-Group System / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Surface / analysis*
  • Carbohydrates / immunology*
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Skin / embryology*
  • Skin / immunology


  • ABO Blood-Group System
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Carbohydrates