Adaptations to the air breathing in the posterior intestine of the catfish (Corydoras aeneus, Callichthyidae). A histological and ultrastructural study
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A light and transmission electron microscopic study of the intestine of catfish C. aeneus shows that the anterior part of the intestine is a site of digestion and absorption and its structure is typical of that of other teleostean fishes. However, in this species the thin- walled posterior intestine is adapted to air breathing. In this region mucosa is smooth and lined with respiratory epithelium with capillary network. Several types of cells are observed in the epithelium: flattened respiratory epithelial cells with short microvili, goblet cells, scarce epithelial cells with numerous longer microvilli, and two types of endocrine cells (EC). The solitary brush cells with several long and thick microvilli described here are the first observation of such cells in the gastrointestinal tract of fishes. Bodies of respiratory epithelial cells lie between capillaries. Their cytoplasm, apart from typical organelles contains dense and lamellar bodies, which are a site of accumulation of surfactant. In regions where capillaries are covered by thin cytoplasmic sheets of respiratory epithelial cells, a thin air-blood barrier is formed, thus enabling gas exchange. Epithelial cells with longer microvilli do not participate in the formation of the air-blood barrier and are probably responsible for absorbtion. EC of the closed type are dispersed within the epithelium. Their cytoplasm contains characteristic round or oval dense core vesicles 69 to 230 nm in diameter. The role of EC and brush cells in the regulation of processes related to absorbtion, and to respiration, is disscused.
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D. Podkowa, Department of Comparative Anatomy, Institute of Zoology, Jagiellonian University, R. Ingardena 6, 30-060 Krakow, Poland