Fine structure of the gill epithelium of the terrestrial mudskipper, Periophthalmodon schlosseri
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In this paper, we describe the fine structure of the branchial epithelium of the amphibious, air-breathing mudskipper Periophthalmodon schlosseri, and relate the observed structure to functions in gas exchange, and to the elimination of sodium chloride and ammonia. Also, we describe the fine structure of the opercular epithelium. The gill lamellar epithelium is thickened by the presence of large mitochondria-rich (MR) cells. These MR cells are further characterized by an extensive tubular system that is continuous with the basolateral plasma membrane and by a deep apical crypt often lined with microvilli. There are very few specialized MR accessory cells, which are associated with NaCl excretion in marine teleosts. Instead, MR cells are commonly isolated from each other laterally by flattened cells rich in intermediate filaments. These filament-rich (FR) cells are interconnected by desmosomes and have unusual canaliculi. These branchial FR cells are unique to P. schlosseri and may have a structural role. Electron-dense pavement cells rich in vesicles and large vacuous mitochondria compose the superficial layer of the epithelium. The unusual morphology of P. schlosseri's gill lamellae may be related to the animal's ability to effectively eliminate ammonia during air exposure. The inner opercular lining and parts of the leading edge of the filament have intraepithelial capillaries, which provide a more suitable gas exchange surface than the thickened lamellae with its restricted interlamellar water spaces. The arrangement of respiratory and ion exchange epithelia is opposite to that found in all other fish in which the lamellae typically function in gas exchange and the gill filament in ion regulation.
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