, Volume 223, Issue 2-4, pp 67-78
Date: 22 Jun 2004

Migration of epidermal keratinocytes: mechanisms, regulation, and biological significance

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Keratinocytes are the prevalent cell type of the epidermis, a multilayered cornified epithelium which provides the cellular basis of the outermost barrier between the organism and its environment. By this barrier function the epidermis protects the organism against a variety of environmental hazards such as dehydration and mechanical stress. Under normal conditions, keratinocytes of all layers are interconnected by desmosomes and anchored by hemidesmosomes to a specialised type of extracellular matrix, the basement membrane. When the epidermis is injured, a vitally important response is initiated with the aim to restore the protective function of the epithelium. A fast but provisional sealing is achieved by the deposition of the fibrin clot before within 24 h after wounding keratinocytes from the wound margins begin to migrate into the wound bed, where they start to proliferate and to form the new epithelium. The development of new high-resolution assays for the study of cell migration and motility has potentiated major progress in our understanding of keratinocyte migration in vitro and in situ. The data reviewed here point to a sophisticated cooperation between soluble motogenic growth factors, cell–matrix interactions, and cell-to-cell communications as major parts of the machinery regulating keratinocyte migration.

Correspondence and reprints: Institut für Zellbiologie, Universität Bonn, Ulrich-Haberland-Strasse 61a. 53121 Bonn. Federal Republic of Germany.