Anatomy and Embryology

, Volume 178, Issue 2, pp 107–118 | Cite as

Globule leukocytes and mast cells in the rat trachea: their number, distribution, and response to compound 48/80 and dexamethasone

  • Elizabeth K. Tam
  • Lynne D. Calonico
  • Jay A. Nadel
  • Donald M. McDonald


Globule leukocytes in the epithelium of the rat trachea may be counterparts of mucosal mast cells that are located in the gastrointestinal tract. If they are indeed similar to mucosal mast cells, globule leukocytes would be expected to decrease in number in rats treated with dexamethasone but not in rats treated with compound 48/80, an agent which causes non-antigenic degranulation of connective tissue mast cells. In this study, we determined the number and compared the distribution of globule leukocytes and connective tissue mast cells in the tracheas of pathogen-free rats. We then determined whether the number of these two types of cells changes in rats treated for 5 days with compound 48/80, dexamethasone, a combination of compound 48/80 and dexamethasone, or saline. We identified globule leukocytes and mast cells in whole mounts and histological sections of rat tracheas by using a histochemical reaction that demonstrates the chymotrypsin-like protease (chloroacetate esterase) present in mast cell granules. Using this method, we found that aproximately 225000 globule leukocytes were present in the epithelium of the trachea. These cells were most abundant in the rostral trachea. Rats treated with dexamethasone had a 91% reduction in the number of globule leukocytes with protease-containing granules, but rats treated with compound 48/80 had a normal number of these cells. We found some 55000 connective tissue mast cells in the same tracheas. Mast cells were most abundant in the posterior membrane of the caudal trachea and in the lamina propria between cartilaginous rings. Rats treated with compound 48/80 had a 96% reduction in mast cells with protease-containing granules, but rats treated with dexamethasone had a normal complement of mast cells. We conclude that globule leukocytes are abundant in the tracheas of healthy rats, are similar in morphology and pharmacological responses to mucosal mast cells located in other organs of rats, and are more numerous than and have a different distribution than connective tissue mast cells. Globule leukocytes in the tracheal epithelium may have a role in respiratory defenses similar to that of mucosal mast cells in other organs.

Key words

Mast cells Globule leukocytes Rats Trachea Compound 48/80 Dexamethasone Histochemistry Naphthol AS-D esterase 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth K. Tam
    • 1
    • 2
  • Lynne D. Calonico
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jay A. Nadel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Donald M. McDonald
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.The Cardiovascular Research InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnatomyUniversity of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA

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