The assembly of the intestinal microvillus cytoskeleton during embryogenesis in the chick was examined by immunochemical and light microscopic immunolocalization techniques. For these studies, affinity-purified antibodies reactive with three major cytoskeletal proteins of the adult intestinal microvillus, fimbrin, villin, and the 110-kD subunit of the 110K-calmodulin protein complex were prepared. Immunocytochemical staining of frozen sections of embryonic duodena revealed that all three proteins were present at detectable levels at the earliest stages examined, day 7-8 of incubation (Hamilton/Hamburger stages 25-30). Although initially all three proteins were diffusely distributed throughout the cytoplasm, there was a marked asynchrony in the accumulation of these core proteins within the apical domain of the enterocyte. Villin displayed concentrated apical staining by embryonic day 8 (stage 28), while the apical concentration of fimbrin was first observed at embryonic day 10 (stage 37). Diffuse staining of the enterocyte cytoplasm with the anti-110K was observed throughout development until a few days before hatch. By embryonic day 19-21 110K staining was concentrated at the cell periphery (apical and basolateral). The restricted apical localization characteristic of 110K in the adult brush border was not observed until the day of hatching. Immunoblot analysis of whole, solubilized embryonic duodena confirmed the presence of 110K, villin, and fimbrin throughout development and indicated substantial increases in all three proteins, particularly late in development. Immunoblot staining with anti-110K also revealed the presence of a high molecular mass (200 kD) immunoreactive species in embryonic intestine. This 200-kD form was absent from isolated embryonic enterocytes and may be a component of intestinal smooth muscle.

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