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Matrix Biol. 2003 Jun;22(4):323-37.

The keratocan gene is expressed in both ocular and non-ocular tissues during early chick development.

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  • 1Division of Biology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-4901, USA.


Extracellular matrix (ECM) keratan sulfate proteoglycans (KSPGs) are core proteins with sulfated polylactosamine side chains (KS). The KSPG core protein keratocan gene (Kera) is expressed almost exclusively in adult vertebrate cornea, but its embryonic expression is little known. Embryonic chick in situ hybridization reveals Kera mRNA expression in corneal endothelium from embryonic day (E) 4.5, Hamburger-Hamilton (HH) 25, in stromal keratocytes from E6.5, HH30, and in iris distal surface cells from E8, HH34. As highly sulfated, antibody I22-positive KS increases extracellularly from posterior to anterior across the stroma, nerves enter and populate only anterior stroma and epithelium. RT-PCR and in situ hybridization demonstrate that developmentally regulated Kera mRNA expression initiates in midbrain and dorsolateral mesenchyme at E1, HH7, then spreads caudally in hindbrain and cranial and trunk mesenchyme flanking the neural tube through E2, HH20. Cranial expression extends ventrally through the developing head, and concentrates in mesenchyme surrounding eye anterior regions and cranial ganglia, and in subepidermal pharyngeal arch mesenchyme by E3.5, HH22. Kera expression in the trunk at E3.5, HH22 and E4.5, HH25, is strong in dorsolateral subepidermal, sclerotomal and nephrogenic mesenchymes, but absent in neural tube, dorsal root ganglia, nerve outgrowths, notochord, heart and gut. Early limb buds express Kera mRNA throughout their mesenchyme, then in restricted proximal and distal mesenchymes. I22-positive KS appears only in notochord in E3.5, HH22 and E4.5, HH25, embryos. Results suggest the hypothesis that keratocan, or keratocan with minimally sulfated KS chains, may play a role in structuring ECM for early embryonic cell and neuronal migrations.

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