The distributions of proteins and protein-bound sulphur have been studied by X-ray emission microanalysis in the plantar epidermis of six albino rats. Plantar skin was fixed in 10% formaldehyde for 24 h and 5-µ paraffin sections obtained. Discrete and continuous measurements of the relative concentrations (mass/unit area) of proteins and sulphur were made along lines of scan perpendicular to the skin surface. The concentrations of proteins and sulphur almost double from the stratum basale across the stratum spinosum. There is a sharp twofold increase in their concentrations across the stratum granulosum to the stratum corneum where they become constant. The sulphur:protein ratio is constant across all layers of the epidermis.
Rough estimates of cell volumes give a ratio of 1:9:7.5 for the cells of the strata basale, granulosum and corneum respectively. Cell volume changes cannot be responsible for the changes in concentration so it is concluded that epidermal cells synthesize and accumulate proteins throughout their migration to the stratum corneum. The observations are regarded as circumstantial evidence for the incorporation of keratohyalin granules into cornified cells.