Scratch-induced partial skin wounds re-epithelialize by sheets of independently migrating keratinocytes.


Re-epithelialization is a crucial process to reestablish the protective barrier upon wounding of the skin. Although this process is well described for wounds where the complete epidermis and dermis is damaged, little is known about the re-epithelialization strategy in more frequently occurring smaller scratch wounds in which structures such as the hair follicles and sweat glands stay intact. To study this, we established a scratch wound model to follow individual keratinocytes in all epidermal layers in the back skin of mice by intravital microscopy. We discover that keratinocytes adopt a re-epithelialization strategy that enables them to bypass immobile obstacles such as hair follicles. Wound-induced cell loss is replenished by proliferation in a distinct zone away from the wound and this proliferation does not affect overall migration pattern. Whereas suprabasal keratinocytes are rather passive, basal keratinocytes move as a sheet of independently migrating cells into the wound, thereby constantly changing their direct neighboring cells enabling them to bypass intact obstacles. This re-epithelialization strategy results in a fast re-establishment of the protective skin barrier upon wounding.

More about this publication

Life science alliance
  • Volume 4
  • Issue nr. 1
  • Publication date 01-01-2021

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