The epidermal stem cell plays a pivotal role in the function of squamous epithelia in physiological as well as in pathological conditions such as cancer. This review summarizes data about the glycobiology of normal squamous epithelia and related tumors with respect to epithelial cell differentiation and search for a glycophenotype specific for epidermal stem cells using labeled plant and endogenous lectins. Although the glycophenotype typical for epithelial cells at the stage of low differentiation level were found, no typical cell surface saccharidic markers of stem cells were detected. The nuclear binding of galectin-1 seems to be specific for the keratinocyte population prepared from hair follicles enriched for multipotent stem cells. The close topographical relationship of nuclear galectin-1 binding sites with SC35 splicing factor suggests some role for these glycoepitopes in pre-mRNA splicing. The data shown in this paper can be employed for diagnostic purposes and for cell therapy of skin defects and indicate the importance of the use of endogenous lectins as probes in biology and medicine.
epidermal stem cell; glycocode; endogenous lectin-galectin-carcinoma
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