Using polyclonal antibodies we have studied the distribution of protein kinase C in fetal mouse low thoracic vertebrae. By means of a pan protein kinase C antiserum recognizing the catalytic domain of the enzyme, we show that protein kinase C is markedly expressed in chondrocytes before birth. The enzyme seems to be very abundant in the more mature cells that are close to ossification centres as well as the periphery of the intervertebral disc, although it can also be detected in chondrocytes. In order to establish which protein kinase C isoenzyme(s) the chondrocytes produce, we employed polyclonal isoenzyme-specific antisera developed against three calcium-dependent isoforms (alpha, beta, gamma) and three calcium-independent isoforms (delta, epsilon, zeta). Secondary antibody conjugated to alkaline phosphatase revealed that chondrocytes markedly express the beta-isoform. Cells were also weakly stained by the anti-epsilon serum. The immunostaining was completely abolished by pre-incubating primary antibodies with the peptide antigens to which they were raised. These results suggest that protein kinase C (and particularly the beta isoform) could play an important role in mouse fetal chondrogenesis of the vertebral column
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