Immunocytochemical detection of mitochondria-rich cells in the brood pouch epithelium of the pipefish, Syngnathus schlegeli : structural comparison with mitochondria-rich cells in the gills and larval epidermis
The brood pouch of the male pipefish (Syngnathus schlegeli) is a ventral organ located on the tail, with the anterior region closely associated with the genital pore. The embryos in the pouch are attached to highly vascularized placenta-like tissue which seals the pouch folds from inside during incubation. The epithelium of the placenta-like tissue consists of mitochondria-rich cells (MRCs) and pavement cells. Differences in MRC morphology in the brood pouch epithelium, the gills and the larval epidermis of the pipefish were examined by light and electron microscopy. Transmission electron microscopy revealed that the MRCs in the brood pouch and the gills shared common characteristics: the presence of numerous mitochondria packed among a well-developed tubular system and the close association of the basal parts with the capillaries running underneath the epithelia. The size of the apical opening of the elongate, flask-shaped brood pouch MRC was about one-tenth that of the apical pit of the gill MRC. The gill and larval epidermal MRCs formed a multicellular complex, in contrast to solitary brood pouch MRCs. The brood pouch MRCs were intensively stained by immunocytochemistry with an antiserum specific for Na+,K+-ATPase. The Na+ concentrations in the brood pouch were maintained near those in the serum rather than seawater during incubation. We conclude that the brood pouch MRCs function as an ion-transporting cell, absorbing ions from the brood pouch lumen, perhaps to protect the embryos from the hyperosmotic environment.
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