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Cell Tissue Res. 2004 Jan;315(1):59-70. Epub 2003 Oct 28.

Cutaneous eccrine glands of the foot pads of the small Madagascan tenrec ( Echinops telfairi, Insectivora, Tenrecidae): skin glands in a primitive mammal.

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Department of Anatomy, Chair II, University of Munich, Pettenkoferstrasse 11, 80336, Munich, Germany.


In order to find correlations between skin gland morphology and specific ethological features, the cutaneous glands of the foot pads of the primitive mammal the Madagascan tenrec, Echinops telfairi, were studied by histological and various histochemical methods as well as by electron microscopy. In the foot pads specific eccrine skin glands occurred consisting of coiled ducts and tubular secretory portions, the lumina of which were considerably wider than in primate sweat glands. The secretory tubules were composed of branched myoepithelial cells and glandular cells. The latter contained abundant mitochondria, large amounts of glycogen particles and few secretory granules as well as individual heterolysosomes and myelin bodies. The lateral cell membrane was marked by extensive interdigitations. The apical membranes of all glandular cells contained proteoglycans with sulfated and carboxylated groups containing N-acetyl-glucosamine, N-acetyl-galactosamine, galactose and mannose. The expression pattern of cytokeratins of the glandular epithelium was variable and showed similarities to that of the human eccrine glands. Tubulin, vinculin and actin were expressed in the glandular epithelium. The secretory cells showed positive reactions with antibodies against antimicrobial peptides and IgA. A positive reaction was observed with antibodies against the androgen receptor. The PCNA and TUNEL reactions indicated that the tubular skin glands of Echinops are made up of a slowly renewing tissue. We conclude that the glands fulfill several functions: production of a fluid-rich secretory product, which may prevent slipping of the foot pads on the substrate during running or climbing, secretion of antimicrobial peptides and proteins, and playing a role in thermoregulation.

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