Transformation of the intestinal epithelium of the larval anadromous sea lamprey Petromyzon marinus L. during metamorphosis.

Research paper by J H JH Youson, W R WR Horbert

Indexed on: 01 Jan '82Published on: 01 Jan '82Published in: Journal of Morphology


The events in the transformation of the intestine of the larval lamprey into the adult intestine were followed through the seven (1-7) stages of metamorphosis in anadromous Petromyzon marinus L. Light and electron-microscope observations demonstrated that the processes of degeneration, differentiation, and proliferation are involved in the transformation. In the anterior intestine, degeneration of cells and the extrusion of others into the lumen results in the disappearance of secretory (zymogen) cells and the decline in numbers of endocrine and ciliated cells. Larval absorptive cells, with a prominent brush border, are believed to dedifferentiate into unspecialized columnar cells with few microvilli. Degeneration and removal of cells occurs by both autophagy and heterography and cells extruded into the lumen in the anterior intestine are phagocytosed by epithelial cells of the posterior intestine. The loss of epithelial cells during transformation results in the folding and degradation of parts of the basal lamina and in an extensive widening of the lateral intercellular spaces in all parts of the intestine. As metamorphosis is a nontrophic period of the lamprey life cycle, the possible morphological effects of starvation on the intestinal epithelium are discussed. The development of longitudinal folds is a consequence of the events of metamorphic transformation of the intestinal mucosa. Although an interaction between the epithelium and the underlying tissues is believed to be importent, the actual mechanism of fold development is unknown. The intestinal epithelium of adult lampreys develops from surviving cells of the larval (primary) epithelium. Unlike the situation in amphibians, there does not appear to be a group (nest) of undifferentiated larval cells which differentiate into the adult (secondary) epithelium. Instead, in lampreys, columnar cells that persist through the degradative processes seem to be the source of absorptive and ciliated cells and probably are responsible for mucous and secretory cells. Preliminary observations indicate that the intestinal epithelium of feeding adults is specialized into an anterior region which liberates a secretion, absorbs lipid, and possesses the machinery for ion transport. A posterior region absorbs lipid, secretes mucus, and likely is involved in some protein absorption. Copyright © 1982 Wiley-Liss, Inc.