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Fine structure of crystalline inclusions in B-cells of the islets of Langerhans in the alligator

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Summary

The ultrastructure of crystalline beta granules of the islets of Langerhans in the alligator has been investigated. From optical diffraction analysis and serial sectioning, the existence of four distinct types of crystalline inclusions was established in ultrathin sections. The first type is the most frequent and is interpreted as a rhombohedroni with a base, the ortho-hexagonal unit-cell edges being a=18.9 nm, c=23.0 nm. The second type of crystal (not observed in serial sections) is found compatible with a rhomb-dodecahedron which indexes on a cubic cell with a=9.6 nm. The third type of crystal was assigned to dipyramids. Dipyramids are extremely rare, and only two diffraction patterns were obtained; their crystal system could not be determined. Prisms, which are second in abundance, represent the fourth type of crystal. Spacings as well as the symmetry differ from those of the above three crystal types and indicate a tetragonal cell with a=4.2 nm, c=14.2 nm. The data for the prismatic crystals are strikingly similar to those of proinsulin and may represent the first case of agreement between crystals (i) formed in vitro and studied by X-ray diffraction and (ii) those investigated in situ by electron microscopy.

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Correspondence to I. Raška.

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Raška, I., Komrska, J., Titlbach, M. et al. Fine structure of crystalline inclusions in B-cells of the islets of Langerhans in the alligator. Cell Tissue Res. 187, 535–550 (1978). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00229618

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Key words

  • Insulin
  • Electron microscopy (serial sections)
  • Optical diffraction
  • Crystalline beta granules (rhombohedra, dodecahedra, dipyramids, prisms)