Cell‐to‐cell communication within the rat anterior pituitary was investigated in 60‐day‐old male rats with immunohistochemistry, scanning electron microscopy, freeze‐fracture electron microscopy, and conventional transmission electron microscopy. A dense cytoreticular network of cytoplasmic processes from the folliculostellate cells was found to contain immunoreactive S‐100 protein and was observed throughout the anterior pituitary. Nonimmunoreactive cells, which were granular, were situated in the center of each network. Almost all of the granulated cells were situated in close proximity to the folliculostellate cells. Scanning electron microscopy revealed that the gland consisted of microlobules enclosed by a basal lamina. On the surface of the microlobules were blood vessels whose branches invaded its internal structures. Cytoplasmic processes from folliculostellate cells projected outside the microlobule. Freeze‐fracture electron microscopy demonstrated the presence of numerous intramembranous particles on the P‐face of the plasma membrane. Scattered on the cell surface were groups of particles forming gap junctions. Meshworks of ridges which were representations of tight junctions were also observed near clusters of microvillous fragments. Clusters of particles forming small gap junctions were located between the meshworks of tight junctions. Small gap junctions were clearly observed by conventional electron microscopy between junctional complexes in a manner similar to that seen by freeze‐fracture electron microscopy. Slender cytoplasmic processes of folliculostellate cells came in contact near the basal lamina and were adjoined by small gap junctions. The ratio of nongranular cells which contained gap junctions to those in which the junctions were absent was about 1:1. The size of the gap junctions ranged from 50 nm to 3 μm. No gap junctions were observed along the plasma membranes of the granular cells. The significance of an intercellular communication system within the anterior pituitary gland of the rat is to establish a mechanism for rapid transmission of information in an organ which lacks direct innervation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)