Synthesis of interkeratin matrix in differentiating lizard epidermis: An ultrastructural autoradiographic study after injection of tritiated proline and histidine


  • Lorenzo Alibardi

    Corresponding author
    1. Dipartimento di Biologia evoluzionistica sperimentale, University of Bologna, 40126, Bologna, Italy
    • Dipartimento di Biologia evoluzionistica sperimentale, University of Bologna, via Selmi 3, 40126; Bologna, Italy
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During epidermal differentiation in mammals, keratins and keratin-associated matrix proteins rich in histidine are synthesized to produce a corneous layer. Little is known about interkeratin proteins in nonmammalian vertebrates, especially in reptiles. Using ultrastructural autoradiography after injection of tritiated proline or histidine, the cytological process of synthesis of beta-keratin and interkeratin material was studied during differentiation of the epidermis of lizards. Proline is mainly incorporated in newly synthesized beta-keratin in beta-cells, and less in oberhautchen cells. Labeling is mainly seen among ribosomes within 30 min postinjection and appears in beta-keratin packets or long filaments 1–3 h later. Beta-keratin appears as an electron-pale matrix material that completely replaces alpha-keratin filaments in cells of the beta-layer. Tritiated histidine is mainly incorporated into keratohyalin-like granules of the clear layer, in dense keratin bundles of the oberhautchen layer, and also in dense keratin filaments of the alpha and lacunar layer. The detailed ultrastructural study shows that histidine-labeling is localized over a dense amorphous material associated with keratin filaments or in keratohyalin-like granules. Large keratohyalin-like granules take up labeled material at 5–22 h postinjection of tritiated histidine. This suggests that histidine is utilized for the synthesis of keratins and keratin-associated matrix material in alpha-keratinizing cells and in oberhautchen cells. As oberhautchen cells fuse with subjacent beta-cells to form a syncytium, two changes occur : incorporation of tritiated histidine, but uptake of proline increases. The incorporation of tritiated histidine in oberhautchen cells lowers after merging with cells of the beta-layer, whereas instead proline uptake increases. In beta-cells histidine-labeling is lower and randomly distributed over the cytoplasm and beta-keratin filaments. Thus, change in histidine uptake somehow indicates the transition from alpha- to beta-keratogenesis. This study indicates that a functional stratum corneum in the epidermis of amniotes originates only after the association of matrix and corneous cell envelope proteins with the original keratin scaffold of keratinocytes. J. Morphol. 259:182–197, 2004. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.