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Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 1990;16(2):133-45.

The cytoskeletal system of mammalian primitive erythrocytes: studies in developing marsupials.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Hunter College of C.U.N.Y., New York.


Seeking to resolve conflicting literature on cytoskeletal structure in mammalian "primitive" generation erythrocytes, we have utilized the circulating blood of developing marsupials. In young of the Tammar Wallaby (Macropus eugenii) and the Gray Short-tailed Opossum (Monodelphis domestica), relatively large, nucleated primitive erythrocytes constituted nearly 100% of the circulating population at birth (= day 0) and in fetuses (Tammar) several days before birth. These cells were discoidal or elliptical, and flattened except for a nuclear bulge. Their cytoskeletal system, consisting of a marginal band of microtubules enclosed within a cell surface-associated network (membrane skeleton), closely resembled that of non-mammalian vertebrate erythrocytes. By day 2 or 3, much smaller anucleate erythrocytes of "definitive" morphology, lacking marginal bands, appeared in abundance. These accounted for greater than 90% of the circulating population of both species by day 6-8. Non-nucleated erythrocytes of a different type, constituting 1-6% of the cells in most blood samples up to day 7, were identified as anucleate primitives on the basis of size, shape, and presence of a marginal band. Thus, loss of erythrocyte nuclei in mammals appears to begin earlier than generally recognized, i.e., in the primitive generation. Counts of these anucleate primitives in young of various ages implicated nucleated primitives as their probable source. Pointed erythrocytes, occasionally found in younger neonates of both species, occurred in greatest number in fetuses (Tammar) prior to birth. This is in accord with previous work on non-mammalian vertebrates suggesting that such cells are morphogenetic intermediates. The results confirm the long-suspected similarity between mammalian primitive erythrocytes and the nucleated erythrocytes of all non-mammalian vertebrates.

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