We have investigated keratin expression in fetal, newborn and adult rat intestines by immunofluorescence staining, immunoblotting of two-dimensional gels and Northern blot analysis of total cellular RNAs. Keratin-type intermediate filaments, composed predominantly of keratin no. 19, were observed already in the undifferentiated stratified epithelium present at 15-16 days of gestation. The marked maturation and differentiation of the epithelium taking place at 18-19 days of gestation was characterized by the appearance of the differentiation-specific keratin no. 21 and by a significant increase in the relative amount of keratin no. 8. The keratin pattern typical of adult villus cells became established at the time of birth, and was marked by a considerable increase in the complexity of the keratin-related polypeptides detected on two-dimensional gels, indicative of extensive post-translational modification of all keratins. Starting at 20 days of gestation there was a major increase in the relative abundance of mRNAs coding for keratin nos. 8, 19 and 21; in contrast, the relative amount of keratin no. 18 mRNA reached a peak shortly after birth and declined to very low levels in adult intestine. These results demonstrated marked changes in keratin expression and post-translational processing taking place at key stages of intestinal development. The appearance of keratin no. 21 in coincidence with the formation of an adult-type brush border and terminal web would be consistent with it having an important role in the organization of the intermediate filament network in the apical cytoplasm of the differentiated intestinal cells.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.