Recent studies have demonstrated that skin basement membrane components are expressed within the dermo-epidermal junction in an orderly sequence during human foetal development. We have investigated the ultrastructural localization of basement membrane-related antigens in human foetal skin at different developmental ages using two monoclonal antibodies to a well-characterized basement membrane-associated heparan sulphate proteoglycan. A series of foetal skin specimens (range, 54-142 gestational days) were examined using an immunoperoxidase immunoelectron microscopic technique. In specimens representing very early developmental ages, very diffuse immunoreaction products were detected. However, by approximately 76 gestational days, some accentuation of heparan sulphate proteoglycan was noted along the lamina densa, and by 142 gestational days, the distribution of heparan sulphate proteoglycan was identical to that observed in neonatal and adult human skin. These findings demonstrate that active remodelling of the dermo-epidermal junction occurs during at least the first two trimesters, and affects not only basement membrane-associated structures but also specific antigens.
Keywords: Antibodies, Monoclonal; Basement Membrane; Gestational Age; Heparin; Humans; Microscopy, Immunoelectron; Proteoglycans; Skin