The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 43: 237 - 244 (1999)

Vol 43, Issue 3

Midline fusion in the formation of the secondary palate anticipated by upregulation of keratin K5/6 and localized expression of vimentin mRNA in medial edge epithelium

Published: 1 May 1999

J R Gibbins, A Manthey, Y M Tazawa, B Scott, A Bloch-Zupan and N Hunter

Department of Pathology, The University of Sydney, Australia.


Secondary palatal fusion is dependent on targeted removal of the epithelium between the palatal shelves. Aseptically delivered rat embryos 15 through 18 days post coitum (dpc) were probed with DIG-labeled antisense and sense ssDNA probes for spliced exon sequences flanking intron E of cytokeratins K5/6 and spliced exon sequences flanking intron F of vimentin. Cytokeratin K5/6 expression was upregulated in the medial edge epithelium (MEE) prior to rotation of the palatal shelves and in the vomerine epithelium in the region of fusion with the palate. K5/6 expression continued in the medial epithelial seam (MES) and in epithelial islands during breakdown of the MES. Vimentin expression was not detected in the MEE prior to rotation but was specifically upregulated in the MEE following rotation and prior to midline contact and continued in the MES and in epithelial cells identifiable during the breakdown of the MES. Initiation of vimentin upregulation in the MEE prior to contact of the palatal shelves was tested by serum-free organ culture of palates from embryos at 15.5 dpc with the shelves separated by a biocompatible membrane. Vimentin upregulation occurred in the epithelium specifically in the region of anticipated contact. These results are interpreted as indicating that i) cytokeratin K5/6 expression may play a critical role in the integration of the epithelial layers of the MES to ensure subsequent merging of the mesenchyme and ii) epithelial cells in the MEE are specifically 'primed' to upregulate expression of mesenchymal genes prior to integration into and breakdown of the MES.

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