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J Morphol. 1999 Jul;241(1):61-81.

Development of dermal denticles in skates (Chondrichthyes, Batoidea): patterning and cellular differentiation.

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Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


Patterning, cellular differentiation, and developmental sequences of dermal denticles (denticles) are described for the skate Leucoraja erinacea. Development of denticles proceeds caudo-rostrally in the tail and trunk. Once three rows of denticles form in the tail and trunk, denticles begin to appear in the region of the pelvic girdle, medio-caudal to the eyes and on the pectoral fins. Although timing of cellular differentiation of denticles differs among different locations of the body, cellular development of a denticle is identical in all locations. Thickening of the epidermis as a denticle lamina marks initiation of development. A single lamina for each denticle forms, and a small group of mesenchymal cells aggregates underneath it. The lamina then invaginates caudo-rostrally to form the inner- and outer-denticle epithelia (IDE and ODE, respectively). Before nuclei of IDE cells are polarized, enameloid matrix appears between the basement membrane of the IDE and the apical surface of the pre-odontoblasts. Pre-dentin is then laid down along with collagenous materials. Von Kossa stain visualizes initial mineralization of dentin, but not enameloid. During the growth of a denticle, dense fibrous connective tissue of the dermis forms the deep dermal tissue over the dorsal musculature. Attachment fibers and tendons anchor denticles and dorsal musculature, respectively, on deep dermal tissue. Basal tissue of the denticles develops as the denticle crown grows. If the basal tissue is bone of attachment, then the cells along the basal tissue would be osteoblasts. However, these cells could not be distinguished from odontoblasts using immunolocalization of type I pro-collagen (Col I), alkaline phosphatase (APase), and neural cell adhesion molecule (N-CAM). Well-developed dentin, (not pre-dentin), the enameloid matrix (probably when it begins to mineralize), and deep dermal tissue are Verhoeff stain-positive, suggesting that these tissues contain elastin and/or elastin-like molecules. Our study demonstrates that the cellular development of denticles resembles tooth development in elasmobranchs, but that dermal denticles differ from teeth in forming from a single denticle lamina. Whether the basal tissue of denticles is bone of attachment remains undetermined. Confirmation and function of Verhoeff-positive proteins in enameloid, dentin, and deep dermal tissue remain to be determined. We discuss these issues along with an analysis of recent findings of enamel and enameloid matrices.

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