Little is known about proteins involved in the formation of the stratum corneum in the avian apteric epidermis. The present immunocytochemical, autoradiographic and electrophoretic study shows that antibodies against characteristic proteins of mammalian cornification (α-keratins, loricrin, sciellin, filaggrin, transglutaminase) recognize avian epidermal proteins. This suggests the presence of avian protein with epitopes common to related mammalian proteins. These proteins may also be involved in the formation of the cornified core and cell envelope of mature avian corneocytes. The immunoblotting study suggests that protein bands, cross-reactive for antibodies against loricrin (45, 52–57 kDa), sciellin (54, 84 kDa), filaggrin (32, 38, 45–48 kDa), and transglutaminase (40, 50, 58 kDa), are present in the avian epidermis. Immunocytochemistry shows that immunoreactivity for the above proteins is localized in the transitional and lowermost corneous layer of apteric epidermis. Their epitopes are rapidly masked/altered in cornifying cells and are no longer detectable in mature corneocytes. In scaled epidermis a thick layer made of β-keratins of 14–18, 20–22, and 33 kDa is formed. Only in feathered epidermis (not in scale epidermis), an antifeather chicken β-keratin antibody recognized a protein band at 8–12 kDa. This small β-keratin is probably suitable for the formation of long, axial filaments in elongated barb, barbule and calamus cells. Conversely, the larger β-keratins in scales are irregularly deposited forming flat plates. Tritiated histidine coupled to autoradiography show an absence of both keratohyalin and histidine-rich proteins in adult feathered and scaled epidermis. Most of the labeling appears in proteins within the range of β- and α-keratins. These data on apteric epidermis support the hypothesis of an evolution of the apteric and interfollicular epidermis from the expansion of hinge regions of protoavian archosaurians.

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