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Structure and function of the reticular cell in the planarian Dugesia dorotocephala

  • Anatomy and ultrastructure
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Structural and functional characteristics of the reticular cell in the planarian Dugesia dorotocephala were studied by light and electron microscopy. Since the reticular cells have numerous glycogen granules, lipid droplets and some lysosomes in their cytoplasm, they are easily distinguishable from other cell types. They migrate into the injured tissue, cover the injured mesenchyme, and also phagocytize debris of degenerating cells. The reticular cells also recognize foreign invaders such as bacteria. The larger aggregates of killed bacteria are encapsulated by reticular cells and eliminated into the intestine, whereas small aggregates are phagocytized by reticular cells. When cell wall extract of bacteria was inserted into the planarian body before insertion of killed bacteria, reticular cells were found to respond more quickly and vigorously to subsequent insertion of killed bacteria, indicating that the reticular cell has an immune response memory. When planarians were treated with 0.3 ppm cadmium sulfate and 0.01 ppm TPA, reticuloma tumors were induced in 76% of exposed planarians, indicating the similarity to blood cell diseases in mammals such as leukemia or lymphoma which are also induced by TPA. When these tumors were transplanted into normal hosts, the tumor cells were attacked by host reticular cells. These observations indicate that planarian reticular cells are primitive blood cells, playing important roles in nutrient transportation, homeostatic control of cells, and in defence and immune surveillance systems.

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Morita, M. Structure and function of the reticular cell in the planarian Dugesia dorotocephala . Hydrobiologia 305, 189–196 (1995).

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