Soft epidermis of a scaleless snake lacks beta-keratin
AbstractBeta-keratins are responsible for the mechanical resistance of scales in reptiles. In a scaleless crotalus snake (Crotalus atrox), large areas of the skin are completely devoid of scales, and the skin appears delicate and wrinkled. The epidermis of this snake has been assessed for the presence of beta-keratin by immunocytochemistry and immunoblotting using an antibody against chicken scale beta-keratin. This antibody recognizes beta-keratins in normal snake scales with molecular weights of 15-18 kDa and isoelectric points at 6.8, 7.5, 8.3 and 9.4. This indicates that beta-keratins of the stratum corneum are mainly basic proteins, so may interact with cytokeratins of the epidermis, most of which appear acidic (isoelectric points 4.5-5.5). A beta-layer and beta-keratin immunoreactivity are completely absent in moults of the scaleless mutant, and the corneous layer comprises a multilayered alpha-layer covered by a flat oberhautchen. In conclusion, the present study shows that a lack of beta-keratins is correlated with the loss of scales and mechanical protection in the skin of this mutant snake.
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Copyright (c) 2009 M Toni, L Alibardi
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