Localization of osteopontin in oviduct tissue and eggshell during different stages of the avian egg laying cycle
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The avian eggshell is an acellular bioceramic containing organic and inorganic phases that are sequentially assembled during the time the egg moves along the oviduct. As it has been demonstrated in other mineralized tissues, mineralization of the eggshell is regulated by extracellular matrix proteins especially the anionic side chains of proteoglycans. Among them, osteopontin has been found in the avian eggshell and oviduct. However, its precise localization in the eggshell or in different oviduct regions during eggshell formation, nor its function have been established. By using anti-osteopontin antibody (OPN 1), we studied its immunolocalization in the isthmus, red isthmus and shell gland of the oviduct, and in the eggshell during formation. In the eggshell, osteopontin was localized in the core of the non-mineralized shell membrane fibers, in the base of the mammillae and in the outermost part of the palisade. In the oviduct, OPN 1 was localized in the ciliated epithelial but not in the tubular gland cells of the isthmus, in the ciliated epithelial cells of the red isthmus, and in the non-ciliated epithelial cells of the shell gland. The occurrence of osteopontin in each of the oviduct regions, coincided with the concomitant presence of the egg in such region. Considering the reported inhibitory function of osteopontin in other mineralized systems, together with its main occurrence in the non-mineralized parts of the eggshell and at the outermost part of the shell, suggests that this molecule could be part of the mechanism regulating the eggshell calcification.