Molecular and Cellular Characterization of Avian Reticulate Scales Implies the Evo–Devo Novelty of Skin Appendages in Foot Sole

Tzu Yu Liu, Michael W. Hughes, Hao Ven Wang, Wei Cheng Yang, Cheng Ming Chuong, Ping Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Among amniotic skin appendages, avian feathers and mammalian hairs protect their stem cells in specialized niches, located in the collar bulge and hair bulge, respectively. In chickens and alligators, label retaining cells (LRCs), which are putative stem cells, are distributed in the hinge regions of both avian scutate scales and reptilian overlapping scales. These LRCs take part in scale regeneration. However, it is unknown whether other types of scales, for example, symmetrically shaped reticulate scales, have a similar way of preserving their stem cells. In particular, the foot sole represents a special interface between animal feet and external environments, with heavy mechanical loading. This is different from scutate-scale-covered metatarsal feet that function as protection. Avian reticulate scales on foot soles display specialized characteristics in development. They do not have a placode stage and lack β-keratin expression. Here, we explore the molecular and cellular characteristics of avian reticulate scales. RNAscope analysis reveals different molecular profiles during surface and hinge determination compared with scutate scales. Furthermore, reticulate scales express Keratin 15 (K15) sporadically in both surface- and hinge-region basal layer cells, and LRCs are not localized. Upon wounding, the reticulate scale region undergoes repair but does not regenerate. Our results suggest that successful skin appendage regeneration requires localized stem cell niches to guide regeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
JournalJournal of Developmental Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Sept

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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