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Israel Journal of Zoology
  Issue:  Volume 49, Number 2-3 / 2003
  Pages:  151 - 158
  URL:  Linking Options

   Special Issue: Aspects of Avian Biology
  Guest Editor(s): Z. Arad and A. Haim
 
ACCUMULATION OF CALCIUM IN THE STRATUM CORNEUM OF THE ROCK PIGEON (COLUMBA LIVIA): STORAGE OR SECRETION?

LIISA PELTONEN A1, RIITTA HARJULA A2, AHTI PYÖRNILÄ A2

A1 Department of Basic Veterinary Sciences, Physiology, University of Helsinki, P.O. Box 57, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
A2 Department of Biology, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 3000, 90014 Oulu, Finland

Abstract:

In the pigeon (Columba livia), a different response of cutaneous water evaporation (CWE) is seen at different acclimation states. While in heat-acclimated pigeons the CWE at high ambient temperatures will be activated as expected, no such response to appropriate thermal stimuli is seen in cold-acclimated birds. This difference is also reflected in the function of the water barrier, which in the stratum corneum modulates the diffusion of water through the skin. In this respect, the skin of birds seems to be more dynamic than that of mammals. In mammals, the formation of this barrier by extracellular lipid lamellae derived from lamellar bodies of viable keratinocytes is a prerequisite for normal skin function. It is present in cold-acclimated pigeons, but is lacking in heat-acclimated birds. The ionic stimulus of extracellular calcium (Ca2+) has been claimed to mediate the formation of the mammalian-type barrier. In order to elucidate the role of Ca2+ in water barrier formation in avians, we studied winter-acclimatized and thermally non-challenged pigeons for their epidermal barrier structure and Ca2+ distribution by calcium capture cytochemistry by electron microscopy. In both groups of pigeons, we show that both the extracellular and the intracellular domains in the stratum corneum contain organized lamellar lipids. In the stratum corneum, the bulk Ca2+ is located in corneocytes. In thermally non-challenged birds, Ca2+ is localized also in the outer extracellular spaces.

We may conclude that, unlike in mammals, (1) corneocytes contain massive intracellular lamellae that extend up to the outer layers of the stratum corneum, and (2) Ca2+ accumulates in the corneocytes. This suggests that pigeons may lose substantial amounts of Ca2+ via desquamation and, on the other hand, the skin may serve as a Ca2+ reservoir. These results indicate a different role of Ca2+ in the water barrier formation, as well as novel functions of the avian skin as compared to that of mammals.


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