• marsupials;
  • hair ultrastructure;
  • keratins;
  • trichohyalin;
  • transglutaminase;
  • immunocytochemistry;
  • ultrastructure


The fine structure and cornification of marsupial hairs are unknown. The distribution of keratins, trichohyalin, and transglutaminase in marsupial hairs was studied here for the first time by electron microscopy and immunocytochemistry. The localization of acidic and basic keratins in marsupial hairs is similar to that of hairs in placental mammals, and the keratins are mainly localized in the outer root sheath and surrounding epidermis. Marsupial trichohyalin in both medulla and inner root sheath (IRS) cross-reacts with a trichohyalin antibody that recognizes trichohyalin across placental species, indicating a common epitope(s) among mammalian trichohyalin. Roundish to irregular trichohyalin granules are composed of a network of immunolabeled 10–15-nm-thick coarse filaments within an amorphous matrix in which a weak labeling for transglutaminases is present. This suggests that the enzyme, and its substrate trichohyalin, are associated in mature granules. Transglutaminase labeling mainly occurs in condensing chromatin of mature cells of the outer and inner root sheaths, suggesting formation of the nuclear envelope connected with terminal differentiation of these cells. In mature Huxley or Henle layers the filaments lose the immunolabeling for trichohyalin when they are reoriented into parallel rows linked by short bridges, thus suggesting that the filaments with their reactive epitopes are chemically modified during cornification, as seen in the IRS of hairs of placental mammals. The Huxley layer probably acts as a cushion, absorbing the tensions connected with the distalward movement of the growing hair fiber. Variations in stratification of the Huxley layer are probably related to the diameter of the hair shaft. The cytoplasmic and junctional connections between cells of the Huxley layer and the companion layer and the outer root sheath enhance the grip of the IRS and hair fiber within the follicle. The role of cells of the IRS in sculpturing the fiber cuticle and in the mechanism of shedding that allows the exit of hair on the epidermal surface in mammals are discussed. J. Morphol. 261:390–402, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.