The oral mucosa is an attractive cell source for autologous transplantation in human patients who require regenerative therapies of various epithelia. However, the time-course of cellular changes in transplanted oral mucosal epithelia at ectopic sites remains poorly understood. By applying a rat model, we analyzed phenotypic changes in oral mucosal epithelial cell sheets after harvest from temperature-responsive culture dishes and subsequent autologous subcutaneous transplantation. We used monoclonal antibodies to identify epithelial-specific cytokeratins 4, 10, 13, and 14, the stem/progenitor cell marker p63, and proliferating cell nuclear antigen, within the regenerated tissues. Transplanted oral mucosal epithelial cell sheets proliferated during the first week after grafting in conjunction with host inflammation, but then began to degenerate afterward with complete disappearance after 3 weeks. Our findings suggest that host subcutaneous tissues support proliferation and differentiation of the oral mucosal epithelial cell sheets, but are unable to promote maintenance of stem and progenitor cells and therefore cannot produce long-term survivability.
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