Modern Microscopical Imaging Techniques for the Study of the Neuroendocrine System

  • Julia M. Polak


The existence of a large, powerful neuroendocrine system has been recognised increasingly since the introduction of the neuroendocrine concept (Scharrer and Scharrer, 1940). Feyrter (1938) demonstrated the presence of specialised “clear” or “endocrine” cells diffusely dispersed throughout the body, often included in non-endocrine tissue (eg. the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts) intermingled with other types of cells. The idea of a “diffuse endocrine system” was then proposed. Nowadays in view of a) the close anatomical relationships between nerves and endocrine cells, b) the existence of numerous active substances (eg. peptides) being produced and released from both endocrine cells and neurones and c) the various histological and histochemical features shared by both systems, Feyrter’s diffuse endocrine concept has been expanded to include the neural controlling system. Thus, the name of neuroendocrine system has been adopted (Polak and Bloom, 1979). This “diffuse neuroendocrine system”, together with the classical neuroendocrine glands, constitute the most powerful controlling system of the body. Its full recognition is largely due to a number of technical advances including the ability to extract, purify and synthesize active substances or to deduce their amino acid sequences by analysis of specific cDNA moieties, as well as the use of advanced analytical microscopical imaging methods which permit detailed study of the localisation, synthesis and receptor recognition of these active substances or regulatory peptides. This contribution will deal in some detail with a variety of imaging methods as used for light and electron microscopical studies of the diffuse neuroendocrine system.


Atrial Natriuretic Peptide Secretory Granule Endocrine Cell Neuroendocrine System Electron Microscopical Level 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia M. Polak
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Histochemistry Royal Postgraduate Medical SchoolHammersmith HospitalLondonUK

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