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Matrix Biol. 2003 Apr;22(2):109-21.

Codistribution analysis of elastin and related fibrillar proteins in early vertebrate development.

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Department of Cell Biology and the Cardiovascular Developmental Biology Center, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.


Elastin is an extracellular matrix protein found in adult and neonatal vasculature, lung, skin and connective tissue. It is secreted as tropoelastin, a soluble protein that is cross-linked in the tissue space to form an insoluble elastin matrix. Cross-linked elastin can be found in association with several microfibril-associated proteins including fibrillin-1, fibrillin-2 and fibulin-1 suggesting that these proteins contribute to elastic fiber assembly, structure or function. To date, the earliest reported elastin expression was in the conotruncal region of the developing avian heart at 3.5 days of gestation. Here we report that elastin expression begins at significantly earlier developmental stages. Using a novel immunolabeling method, the deposition of elastin, fibrillin-1 and -2 and fibulin-1 was analyzed in avian embryos at several time points during the first 2 days of development. Elastin was found at the midline associated with axial structures such as the notochord and somites at 23 h of development. Fibrillin-1 and -2 and fibulin-1 were also expressed at the embryonic midline at this stage with fibrillin-1 and fibulin-1 showing a high degree of colocalization with elastin in fibers surrounding midline structures. The expression of these genes was confirmed by conventional immunoblotting and mRNA detection methods. Our results demonstrate that elastin polypeptide deposition occurs much earlier than was previously appreciated. Furthermore, the results suggest that elastin deposition at the early embryonic midline is accompanied by the deposition and organization of a number of extracellular matrix polypeptides. These filamentous extracellular matrix structures may act to transduce or otherwise stabilize dynamic forces generated during embryogenesis.

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