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Protoplasma. 2019 Apr 29. doi: 10.1007/s00709-019-01381-3. [Epub ahead of print]

Immunolocalization and phylogenetic profiling of the feather protein with the highest cysteine content.

Author information

1
Research Division of Biology and Pathobiology of the Skin, Department of Dermatology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
2
Department of Medical Biochemistry, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.
3
Comparative Histolab, Padova, Italy.
4
Research Division of Biology and Pathobiology of the Skin, Department of Dermatology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria. leopold.eckhart@meduniwien.ac.at.

Abstract

Feathers are the most complex skin appendages of vertebrates. Mature feathers consist of interconnected dead keratinocytes that are filled with heavily cross-linked proteins. Although the molecular architecture determines essential functions of feathers, only few feather proteins have been characterized with regard to their amino acid sequences and evolution. Here, we identify Epidermal Differentiation protein containing DPCC Motifs (EDDM) as a cysteine-rich protein that has co-evolved with other feather proteins. The EDDM gene is located within the avian epidermal differentiation complex (EDC), a cluster of genes that has originated and diversified in amniotes. EDDM shares the exon-intron organization with EDC genes of other amniotes, including humans, and a gene encoding an EDDM-like protein is present in crocodilians, suggesting that avian EDDM arose by sequence modification of an epidermal differentiation gene present in a common ancestor of archosaurs. The EDDM protein contains multiple sequence repeats and a higher number of cysteine residues than any other protein encoded in the EDC. Immunohistochemical analysis of chicken skin and skin appendages showed expression of EDDM in barb and barbules of feathers as well as in the subperiderm on embryonic scutate scales. These results suggest that the diversification and differential expression of EDDM, besides other EDC genes, was instrumental in facilitating the evolution of the most complex molecular architecture of feathers.

KEYWORDS:

Bird; Crocodile; Differentiation; Epidermis; Feather; Scale

PMID:
31037447
DOI:
10.1007/s00709-019-01381-3

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