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Abstract

Turtle scutes are made of hard (beta)-keratins. In order to study size and localization of beta-keratins in turtle shell, we produced a rat polyclonal antiserum against a turtle scute beta-keratin of 13–16 kDa, which allowed the immunolocalization of the protein in the epidermis. In immunoblots the antiserum recognized turtle beta-keratins but showed variable cross-reactivity with lizard, snake, and avian beta-keratins. The turtle antiserum appears less cross-reactive than a chicken scale antiserum (Beta-1). In bidimensional immunoblots, three main protein spots at 15–16 kDa with pI at 7.3, 6.8, 6.4, and an unresolved large spot at 40–45 kDa with pI around 5 were more constantly obtained. The latter may result from the aggregation of the smaller beta-keratin protein. The corneous layer of the carapace and plastron of various species of chelonians appeared immunofluorescent. The ultrastructural immunolocalization showed sparse labeling over beta-keratin filaments of cells of the horny layer of both carapace and plastron. The study for the first time shows that the isolated protein band derived from a component of the beta-keratin filaments of the corneous layer of turtles. This antibody can be used for further studies on beta-keratin expression and sequencing in chelonian shell. No labeling was present over other cell organelles or layers of turtle epidermis and it was absent in non-epidermal cells. The specificity for turtle beta-keratin suggests that the antiserum recognizes some epitope/s specific for chelonians beta-keratins, and that it also variably recognizes other reptilian and avian beta-keratins. J. Exp. Zool. (Mol. Dev. Evol.) 306B, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.