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The effect of change of background colour on the ultrastructure of the pars intermedia of the pituitary of the eel (Anguilla anguilla)

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Colour change in the eel resulted in marked ultrastructural changes in the pre-dominating (Type II) secretory cells of the pars intermedia of the pituitary. The effects on these cells of transferring eels from white to black backgrounds for periods of up to 56 days were: a) hypertrophy of the rough endoplasmic reticulum, which increased from 12 to 35% of the cytoplasmic volume; b) loss of secretory granules which decreased from 38 to 5% of the cytoplasmic volume; c) development of a system of fine (25–35 nm) tubules located especially at the secretory poles of the cells but also found in the region of the Golgi apparatus. The tubules were seen to connect with the plasma membrane, with the limiting membrane of the secretory granules, and in one instance to connect a granule with the plasma membrane. After glutaraldehyde fixation at pH 5, electron dense material similar to that found in the secretory granules was observed in the lumen of many of the tubules.

The changes that occurred in black background eels are taken to indicate that the Type II cells of the pars intermedia are responsible for MSH secretion, particularly since these changes were reversed by returning eels to white backgrounds. The cytoplasmic tubules found in Type II cells may indicate a process for MSH release which does not involve granule extrusion, but rather direct transport of material from the Golgi apparatus to the cell membrane.

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The electron microscope facilities used in this investigation were funded by the Medical Research Council.

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Thornton, V.F., Howe, C. The effect of change of background colour on the ultrastructure of the pars intermedia of the pituitary of the eel (Anguilla anguilla). Cell Tissue Res. 151, 103–115 (1974). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00222038

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Key words

  • Pars intermedia
  • Eel
  • Colour change
  • Quantitative ultrastructure