Key words Pheromone
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract To investigate cell turnover in the vomeronasal epithelium we used electron microscopy to obtain quantitative measurements of changes observed at the surface of the sensory epithelium. Receptor cell degeneration was induced by sensory nerve transection and animals were examined at postoperative recovery times of 2, 4, 6, 10, 15, 35 and 60 days. We measured the number and density of receptor and supporting cells, and membrane length at the surface of the sensory epithelium. The number of receptor cells rapidly decreased during the degeneration period, reaching a minimum at 6 days. After 15 days of recovery the number and density of receptor cells returned to control levels. The surface membrane length for regenerated receptor cells was similar to that of controls, however the morphological appearance was characteristic of immature cells. In contrast to the receptor cells, the number and density of supporting cells did not change during degeneration and regeneration. However, there was a significant increase in the length of supporting cell-surface membranes. These results suggest that during receptor cell degeneration, supporting cell membranes compensate for the loss of receptor cells by expanding their surface membrane length to help to maintain the continuity of the epithelial surface. Thus, an important role of vomeronasal supporting cells may be to maintain the structural integrity of the epithelium during turnover of the receptor cell population.
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