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Ultrastructure and distribution dynamics of chloride cells in tilapia larvae in fresh water and sea water

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Integumental and branchial chloride cells of tilapia larvae (Oreochromis mossambicus) were studied at the light-microscopical and ultrastructural level. Total numbers and distribution of chloride cells were quantified after immunostaining of cross sections of the entire larvae with an antibody against the α-subunit of Na+/K+-ATPase. The majority (66%) of Na+/K+-ATPase-immunoreactive (ir) cells, i.e. chloride cells, of freshwater tilapia larvae were located extrabranchially up to 48 h after hatching. Five days after hatching, the majority (80%) of chloride cells were found in the buccal cavity. Transfer of 24-h-old larvae to 20% sea water speeded up this process; 24 h after transfer (i.e. 48 h after hatching), the majority (59%) of chloride cells were located in the buccal cavity. The branchial chloride cell population of 24-h- and 120-h-old larvae consisted of immature, mature, apoptotic and necrotic chloride cells. However, relatively more immature chloride cells were observed in freshwater larvae (42–63%) than in (previously studied) freshwater adults (21%), illustrating the developmental state of the gills. After transfer to sea water, the incidence of degenerative chloride cells did not change. Furthermore, the incidence of immature cells had decreased and a new subtype of chloride cells, the ”mitochondria-poor” cells, appeared more frequently. These mitochondria-poor chloride cells were characterised by an abundant tubular system and relatively few mitochondria, which were aligned at the border or concentrated in one part of the cytoplasm. Most of these cells did not contact the water. The function of their enhanced appearance after seawater transfer is unknown.

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Received: 26 November 1998 / Accepted: 10 March 1999

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van der Heijden, A., van der Meij, J., Flik, G. et al. Ultrastructure and distribution dynamics of chloride cells in tilapia larvae in fresh water and sea water. Cell Tissue Res 297, 119–130 (1999).

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  • Key words Chloride cells (mitochondria-rich cells)
  • Teleost larvae
  • Osmoregulation
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Quantification
  • Ultrastructure
  • Oreochromis mossambicus (Teleostei)