• reptiles;
  • beta-defensins;
  • granulocytes;
  • immunocytochemistry;
  • ultrastructure


The ability of lizards to withstand infections after wounding or amputation of the tail or limbs has suggested the presence of antimicrobial peptides in their tissues. Previous studies on the lizard Anolis carolinensis have identified several beta-defensin-like peptides that may potentially be involved in protection from infections. The present ultrastructural immunocytochemical study has analyzed tissues in different reptilian species in order to localize the cellular source of one of the more expressed beta-defensins previously sequenced in lizard indicated as AcBD15. Beta-defensin-like immunoreactivity is present in some of the larger, nonspecific granules of granulocytes in two lizard species, a snake, the tuatara, and a turtle. The ultrastructural study indicates that only heterophilic and basophilic granulocytes contain this defensin while other cell types from the epidermis, mesenchyme, and dermis, muscles, nerves, cartilage or bone are immunonegative. The study further indicates that not all granules in reptilian granulocytes contain the beta-defensin peptide, suggesting the presence of granules with different content as previously indicated for mammalian neutrophilic leucocytes. No immunolabeling was instead observed in granulocytes of the alligator and chick using this antibody. The present immunocytochemical observations suggest a broad cross-reactivity and conservation of beta-defensin-like sequence or steric motif across lepidosaurians and likely in turtles while archosaurian granulocytes may contain different beta-defensin-like or other peptides. J. Morphol. 274:877–886, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.