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Morphological evaluation of Merkel cells and small lamellated sensory receptors in the equine foot

Robert M. Bowker VMD, PhD1, Lisa S. Lancaster DVM, PhD2, and Diane A. Isbell DVM3
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  • 1 Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48 824.
  • | 2 Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48 824.
  • | 3 Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48 824.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE To examine the equine foot for the presence of sensory receptors including Merkel cells and small lamellated Pacinian-like corpuscles (SLPCs).

SAMPLE Forefeet obtained from 7 horses following euthanasia for reasons other than foot disease.

PROCEDURES Disarticulated feet were cut into either sagittal sections or cross sections and immersed in neutral-buffered 4% formalin. Following fixation, samples were obtained from the midline of the dorsal aspect of the hoof wall and from the frog (cuneus ungulae) between the apex and central sulcus. The formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded hoof wall and frog sections were routinely processed for peroxidase immunohistochemistry and stained with H&E, Alcian blue, and Masson trichrome stains for histologic evaluation.

RESULTS Sensory myelinated nerves and specific receptors were identified within the epidermal and dermal tissues of the equine foot including the hoof wall laminae, coronet, and frog. Merkel cells were identified with specific antisera to villin, cytokeratin 20, and protein gene product 9.5 in coronet epidermis and hoof wall. These cells were interspersed among basilar keratinocytes within the frog, coronary epidermis, and secondary epidermal laminae. The SLPCs were present within the superficial dermis associated with the central ridge of the frog (ie, frog stay). Numerous S100 protein and protein gene product 9.5 immunoreactive sensory nerves in close proximity to these receptors were present throughout the dermal tissues within both the frog and hoof wall.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE The presence of Merkel cells and SLPCs that are known to detect tactile and vibrational stimuli, respectively, further defined the diverse range of neural elements within the equine foot.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE To examine the equine foot for the presence of sensory receptors including Merkel cells and small lamellated Pacinian-like corpuscles (SLPCs).

SAMPLE Forefeet obtained from 7 horses following euthanasia for reasons other than foot disease.

PROCEDURES Disarticulated feet were cut into either sagittal sections or cross sections and immersed in neutral-buffered 4% formalin. Following fixation, samples were obtained from the midline of the dorsal aspect of the hoof wall and from the frog (cuneus ungulae) between the apex and central sulcus. The formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded hoof wall and frog sections were routinely processed for peroxidase immunohistochemistry and stained with H&E, Alcian blue, and Masson trichrome stains for histologic evaluation.

RESULTS Sensory myelinated nerves and specific receptors were identified within the epidermal and dermal tissues of the equine foot including the hoof wall laminae, coronet, and frog. Merkel cells were identified with specific antisera to villin, cytokeratin 20, and protein gene product 9.5 in coronet epidermis and hoof wall. These cells were interspersed among basilar keratinocytes within the frog, coronary epidermis, and secondary epidermal laminae. The SLPCs were present within the superficial dermis associated with the central ridge of the frog (ie, frog stay). Numerous S100 protein and protein gene product 9.5 immunoreactive sensory nerves in close proximity to these receptors were present throughout the dermal tissues within both the frog and hoof wall.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE The presence of Merkel cells and SLPCs that are known to detect tactile and vibrational stimuli, respectively, further defined the diverse range of neural elements within the equine foot.

Contributor Notes

Address correspondence to Dr. Bowker (Bowker@cvm.msu.edu).