Int. J. Dev. Biol. 43: 229 - 235 (1999)
© UPV/EHU Press

Expression of galectin-7 during epithelial development coincides with the onset of stratification.

P M Timmons, C Colnot, I Cail, F Poirier and T Magnaldo

Unité INSERM 257, ICGM, Paris, France.

ABSTRACT Galectin-7 is a 14 KDa member of the galectin family that we have cloned from human, rat and mouse. Our previous studies have shown that in the adult, galectin-7 is expressed in all cell layers of epidermis and of other stratified epithelia such asthe cornea and the lining of the oesophagus. This suggested that galectin-7 expression might be induced at a particular stage in the embryonic development of stratified epithelia. In the present study we have investigated this hypothesis by in situ hybridization of galectin-7 mRNA in mouse embryos. Starting from E13.5, weak expression of galectin-7 was detected in bilayered ectoderm, and stronger expression was found in areas of embryonic epidermis where stratification was more advanced. Galectin-7 expression was maintained in all living layers after epidermal development was completed. Galectin-7 was also strongly and specifically expressed in stratified regions of ectodermally-derived non-epidermal epithelia such as the lining of the buccal cavity, the oesophagus and the ano-rectal region. In contrast, no expression of galectin-7 was found in epithelia derived from endoderm, such as lining of the intestine, kidney and lung. Our results demonstrate that galectin-7 is expressed in all stratified epithelia examined so far, and that the onset of its expression coincides with the first visible signs of stratification. These results establish galectin-7 as the first region-independent marker of epithelial stratification.