Ultrastructural studies of epidermis keratinization in grass snake embryos Natrix natrix L. (Lepidosauria, Serpentes) during late embryogenesis.

Research paper by Elwira E Swadźba, Weronika W Rupik

Indexed on: 16 Nov '10Published on: 16 Nov '10Published in: Zoology


The changes and biochemical features of the epidermis that accompany the differentiation and embryonic shedding complex formation in grass snake Natrix natrix L. embryos were studied ultrastructurally and immunocytochemically with two panels of antibodies (AE1, AE3, AE1/AE3; anti-cytokeratin, pan mixture, Lu-5 and PCK-26). All observed changes in the ultrastructure of the cells forming the epidermal layers were associated with the physiological changes that occurred in the embryonic epidermis, such as changing of the manner of nutrition and keratinization leading to the embryonic shedding complex formation. The layers that originated first (basal, outer and inner periderm and clear layer) differentiated very early and rapidly. Rapid differentiation was also observed in the layers that are very important for the functioning of the epidermis in Natrix embryos (oberhäutchen and beta-layers). They started to differentiate at developmental stage IX, and then fused and formed the embryonic shedding complex at developmental stage XI. During the embryonic development of the grass snake the smallest changes appeared in the ultrastructure of the cells in the mesos and alpha-layers because they perform supplementary functions in the process of embryonic molting. They were undifferentiated until the end of embryonic development and started to differentiate just before the first adult molting. AE1/AE3, anti-cytokeratin, pan mixture, Lu-5 and PCK-26 antibodies immunolabeled clear layer, oberhäutchen and beta-layers at the latest phase of developmental stage XI. It should be noted that these antibodies did not immunolabel the alpha-layer until hatching. The presence of alpha-keratin immunolabeling in layers that were keratinized, particularly in the oberhäutchen and beta-layers in embryos, indicated that they were not as hard as in fully mature individuals.