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Seasonal lectin binding variations of thumb pad in the frog (Pelophylax ridibundus)



The thumb pad is one of the most common secondary sexual characteristics in frogs. Although it is known that amphibian skin has affinity for several lectins, there is no report regarding lectin-binding affinity of the thumb pad or its structural components. This study investigated localization and seasonal variation of specific carbohydrate moieties of glycoconjugates in both the epidermal and dermal components of the frog thumb pad at the light microscopic level using lectin histochemistry. The study consisted of four seasonal groups of the frog species, Pelophylax ridibundus (Synonym of Rana ridibunda): active, prehibernating, hibernating and posthibernating. Four horseradish peroxidase conjugated lectins were employed. It was found that dolichos biflorus agglutinin (DBA), wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), and ulex europaeus (UEAI) gave positive reactions in both epidermal layers and breeding glands. These three lectins bound specific secretory cells in the breeding glands, and the distribution of the cells and epithelial lectin reactions exhibited seasonal changes. In addition, UEA-I and peanut agglutinin (PNA) showed an affinity in granular glands and the granular zone of mixed glands. Generally, epidermal lectin binding showed dense affinity during the posthibernation period. DBA, UEA-I, and WGA-specific cells in the mucous gland decreased gradually until the posthibernation period. These findings suggest that differences of lectin binding in the thumb pad may be related to functional activities and, thus, seasonal adaptations. Moreover, the presence of specific lectin-binding cells in the breeding glands indicated that they consisted of heterogeneous secretory cell composition or that the cells were at different secretory stages. J. Morphol. 275:76–86, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.