Cytokeratin expression in simple epithelia

III. Detection of mRNAs encoding human cytokeratins nos. 8 and 18 in normal and tumor cells by hybridization with cDNA sequences in vitro and in situ


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Abstract. We describe cDNA clones of mRNAs encoding human cytokeratins nos. 8 and 18, and the amino acid sequences deduced from their nucleotide sequences. Human cytokeratin no. 8 is a typical cytokeratin of the basic (type II) subfamily, which is highly homologous to the corresponding bovine and amphibian (Xenopus laevis) proteins; however, unlike the amphibian protein, it does not contain glycine-rich oligopeptide repeats in its carboxyterminal‘tail’ domain. Comparison with the reported amino acid sequences of two fragments of human‘tissue polypeptide antigen’ (TPA), a widely used serodiagnostic carcinoma marker, revealed sequence identity, indicating that this serum component is derived from the intracellular cytokeratin no. 8 present in diverse kinds of epithelia and epitheliumderived tumors. Human cytokeratin no. 18 is very similar to the corresponding murine protein but contains two additional blocks of 4 and 5 amino acids in the ‘head’ portion. These cDNA clones and the RNA probes derived therefrom were used to detect specifically mRNAs by Northern-blot assays of RNAs from various carcinomas and cultured carcinoma cells. Using in situ hybridization on frozen sections of tumor-containing tissues, notably lymph nodes containing metastatic breast carcinoma, we were able to demonstrate the specificity and sensitivity of this procedure. The potential value for cell-biological research and pathology of being able to detect a mRNA encoding a given cytokeratin polypeptide in situ is discussed.