Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Eve R. Schneider


Cutaneous touch is facilitated by discrete cellular complexes composed of non-neuronal cells associated with mechanoreceptor neuron endings. The non-neuronal cells of these cutaneous end organ complexes (CEOCs) are believed to contribute to touch, but their role in touch sensation remains unclear. To better understand the function of CEOC cells, we sought to characterize the transcriptional profile of CEOC-rich tissue and identify genes expressed in CEOC cells. Bill skin of the tactile foraging Pekin duck (Anas platyrhynchos) is dense with CEOCs, specifically the avian analogs of mammalian Pacinian and Meissner corpuscles, while corpuscles in duck foot skin are scarce. Using RNA sequencing and differential expression analysis, we compared gene expression in duck bill and foot skin. Bill skin was enriched in genes involved with myelination, neurotransmitter release, and synapse formation, which could support the hypothesis that chemical communication between neuronal and non-neuronal cells plays a role in touch transduction. RNA in situ hybridization revealed that COCH, a gene not previously reported as playing a role in skin, is exclusively expressed in the inner core cells of lamellar corpuscles in embryo and adult duck bill skin. These results provide evidence for COCH’s role in CEOCS and data for further investigating CEOC-rich tissue.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship in Neuroscience granted to Dr. Eve Schneider in 2020. Sequencing and bioinformatics support for this work were provided by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants P20GM103436 (Martha Bickford, PI) and P20GM106396 (Donald Miller, PI) in 2021.