By removing connective tissue components with enzymatic digestion followed by HCl-hydrolysis, myoepithelial cells (MECs) of the terminal portion in a variety of exocrine glands of the rat were examined with the scanning electron microscope.
The profile of MECs varied considerably from gland to gland; MECs in the lactating mammary gland have a few long cytoplasmic processes in close contact with those of adjacent cells forming a continuous network around the terminal portion. Those of the exorbital lacrimal gland are stellate with many thin radiating processes with tapered ends that terminate freely. MECs in the sublingual gland are characterized by a number of broad and extensive cellular processes. MECs in the submandibular gland are similar in appearance to those of the exorbital lacrimal gland, but with more extensive cellular processes that form a more or less continuous network with those of the adjacent cells. No MECs were observed on the terminal portion of the parotid gland where the cells appear to be lodged on the intercalated duct.
The relative surface area covered by MECs per terminal portion was also found to vary significantly, being 24% in the lactating mammary, 17% in the exorbital lacrimal, 48% in the sublingual, and 25% in the submandibular glands.
The findings are discussed in relation to the physical properties of secretions in different glands.
Myoepithelial cell Exocrine gland Scanning electron microscopy Rat