Embryonic development of the mouse salivary glands begins with epithelial thickening and continues with sequential changes from the pre-bud to terminal bud stages. After birth, morphogenesis proceeds, and the glands develop into a highly branched epithelial structure that terminates with saliva-producing acinar cells at the adult stage. Acinar cells derived from the epithelium are differentiated into serous, mucous, and seromucous types. During differentiation, cytokeratins, intermediate filaments found in most epithelial cells, play vital roles. Although the localization patterns and developmental roles of cytokeratins in different epithelial organs, including the mammary glands, circumvallate papilla, and sweat glands, have been well studied, their stage-specific localization and morphogenetic roles during salivary gland development have yet to be elucidated. Therefore, the aim of this study was to determine the stage and acinar cell type-specific localization pattern of cytokeratins 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 14, 18, and 19 in the major salivary glands (submandibular, sublingual, and parotid glands) of the mouse at the E15.5, PN0, PN10, and adult stages. In addition, cell physiology, including cell proliferation, was examined during development via immunostaining for Ki67 to understand the cellular mechanisms that govern acinar cell differentiation during salivary gland morphogenesis. The distinct localization patterns of cytokeratins in conjunction with cell physiology will reveal the roles of epithelial cells in salivary gland formation during the differentiation of serous, mucous or seromucous salivary glands.
Keywords: Acinar cells; Intermediate filament; Mucous; Serous.