Functional Morphology of the Salivary Gland of the Snail, Helix Pomatia: A Histochemical and Immunocytochemical Study


Functional morphology of Helix pomatia salivary gland cells was studied at light microscopic level by using different histochemical methods. Three cell types could be demonstrated in the salivary gland: mucocytes, granular and vacuolated cells. The distribution and the number of the different cell types were different in active and inactive snails. In active feeding animals, dilatated interlobular salivary ducts were observed, which were never present in inactive ones. In active animals an additional cell type, the cystic cell could also be observed. Periodic acid Schiff staining revealed both mucuos and serous elements in the salivary gland. Furthermore, hematoxyline-eosin staining indicated the occurrence of a cell layer with high mitotic activity in the acini. Applying immunohistochemical methods with monoclonal mouse anti-human Ki-67 clone, B56 and polyclonal rabbit anti-human Ki-67 antibodies, we also were able to demonstrate the occurrence of dividing cells in the salivary gland. Analysis of 1–2 um semi-thin Araldite sections stained with toluidine-blue showed that the saliva can be released, in addition to possible exo-cytosis, by the lysis of cystic cells. Using an apoptosis kit, we could also establish that this process was due to rather an apoptotic than a necrotic mechanism. In the salivary gland of active snails, where an intensive salivation takes place, significantly more apoptotic cells occurred, if compared to that of inactive animals. It is suggested that programmed cell death may also be involved in the saliva release.


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Correspondence to T. Kiss.

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Presented at the 10th ISIN Symposium on Invertebrate Neurobiology, July 5–9, 2003, Tihany, Hungary.

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Pirger, Z., Elekes, K. & Kiss, T. Functional Morphology of the Salivary Gland of the Snail, Helix Pomatia: A Histochemical and Immunocytochemical Study. BIOLOGIA FUTURA 55, 221–232 (2004).

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  • Salivary gland
  • cystic cell
  • dividing cell
  • apoptosis
  • snail