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Dev Biol. 1984 Dec;106(2):406-13.

Avian feather development: relationships between morphogenesis and keratinization.


Morphogenesis and expression of the alpha and beta keratin polypeptides are controlled by epidermal-dermal interactions during development of avian skin derivatives. We have examined the relationship between morphogenesis of the embryonic feather and expression of the feather alpha and beta keratins by routine histology, indirect-immunofluorescence, and SDS-PAGE. Initially beta keratins are expressed only in the feather sheath. Following barb ridge morphogenesis beta keratins can be detected in the barb ridge, coincident with the differentiation of barb ridge cells into eight distinct morphological types. Beta keratinization occurs in gradients; from feather apex to base, and from periphery of the barb ridge to the interior. The onset of beta keratinization in the barb ridges is paralleled by an increase in the major feather beta keratin polypeptides, as detected by SDS-PAGE. The alpha keratins are present in both the periderm and feather sheath at early stages of feather development, but become greatly reduced after hatching, when the down feather emerges from the sheath.

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