The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 48: 217 - 231 (2004)

Vol 48, Issue 2-3

Special Issue: Skin Development

Skin development in bony fish with particular emphasis on collagen deposition in the dermis of the zebrafish (Danio rerio)

Published: 1 April 2004

Dominique Le Guellec, Ghislaine Morvan-Dubois and Jean-Yves Sire

Institut de Biologie et Chimie des Protéines, Lyon, France.


The first part of this article is a review of the current status of knowledge of the fish skin, with particular attention to its development. In the second part we present original results obtained in zebrafish (Danio rerio), with particular emphasis on the deposition and organisation of the dermal collagenous stroma. Using a series of zebrafish specimens aged between 15 hours postfertilization (hpf) and 4.5 years old, we have combined Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) observations and in situ hybridisation using type I collagen a2 chain (Col1a2) probe. Collagen fibrils, with a diameter of 22 nm, appear first in an acellular subepidermal space at 24 hpf, are first all oriented in the same direction, and form the primary dermal stroma. Subsequently, three events occur. (1) From 5-7 days pf (dpf) onwards the collagen fibrils self-organise into several lamellae arranged in a plywood-like structure, starting in the upper layers and progressing throughout the entire thickness of the dermis. (2) At 20-26 dpf, fibroblasts of unknown origin progressively invade the acellular collagenous stroma, some of them accumulating below the epidermis. (3) Concomitant with the invasion of fibroblasts, the collagen fibrils increase progressively in diameter to reach 160 nm towards the end of the fish life. In situ hybridisation experiments reveal that, between 24 and 48 hpf, the collagen matrix is produced by the epidermis only. From 72 hpf to 20-26 dpf, both the basal epidermal cells and the dermal cells bordering the deep region of the dermis are involved in the production of collagen. When the fibroblasts invade the plywood-like structure, the epidermal cells progressively cease to synthesise collagen, which from this point is produced only by the fibroblasts. This suggests that the fibroblasts secrete a still unidentified signalling molecule that downregulates collagen production by the epidermis.


collagen, Col1a2, development, in situ hybridisation, skin, TEM, zebrafish

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