Developmental changes in cellular and extracellular structural macromolecules in the secondary palate and in the nasal cavity of the mouse

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The aim of this study was to analyse the hitherto largely unknown expression patterns of some specific cellular and extracellular molecules during palate and nasal cavity development. We showed that epithelia of the developing palate and the vomerine epithelium express similar sets of structural proteins. With the exception of keratin 15, which becomes barely detectable in the elevated palatal shelves, nearly all of these proteins become upregulated at the presumptive areas of fusion and in the adhering epithelia of the palate and nasal septum. In vivo and in vitro analyses indicated that reduction in the amount of keratin 15 protein is independent of Tgfβ–Alk5 signalling. Foxa1 expression also highlighted the regionalization of the palatal and nasal epithelia. Owing to the lack of reliable markers of the palatal periderm, the fate of peridermal cells has been controversial. We identified LewisX/stage-specific embryonic antigen-1 as a specific peridermal marker, and showed that numerous peridermal cells remain trapped in the medial epithelial seam (MES). The fate of these cells is probably apoptosis together with the rest of the MES cells, as we provided strong evidence for this event. Heparan sulphate, chondroitin-6-sulphate, and versican displayed dynamically changing distribution patterns. The hitherto-unknown innervation pattern of the developing palate was revealed. These findings may be of value for unravelling the pathogenesis of palatal clefting.

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