Mitochondria-rich cells in gills and skin of an African lungfish, Protopterus annectens
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We used scanning electron microscopy, the vital dye DASPEI and an antibody to the inner mitochondrial membrane to study the presence and localisation of mitochondria-rich cells in the gills and skin (opercular, dorsal and ventral) of the lungfish Protopterus annectens in its free-swimming conditions and at the beginning of aestivation. In the free-swimming period, the gills were short and thick and the pavement cells were extremely large (30–40 µm). The mitochondria-rich cells, which were distributed in the secondary and primary epithelium, occurred as two morphologically different types, i.e. elongated and oval, similar to the α and β chloride cells of fresh water teleosts. In the skin, only one type of mitochondria-rich cells was found, resembling the α chloride cells. All the mitochondria-rich cells distributed in the gills and skin were labelled with anti Ca2+-ATPase serum indicating the possible uptake of Ca2+ at freshwater chloride cell level. At the start of aestivation, the skin and gills were covered by a thick layer of mucus and the epithelium of the gills was reduced. The mitochondria-rich cells were almost completely covered by the pavement cells.
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