The tracheobronchial epithelium of the bonnet monkey (Macaca radiata): A quantitative ultrastructural study

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Since there are major differences between the airway epithelium of man and that of common laboratory species, the tracheobronchial epithelium of the bonnet macaque was characterized to evaluate its usefulness as a model for study of human conducting airways. This study compared the light microscopic, scanning electron microscopic, and ultrastructural appearance of epithelium from the posterior membranous and anterior cartilaginous trachea and mainstem bronchus. Population densities, epithelial volumetric densities, and frequency distributions of cross-sectional areas of nuclei were determined for cell types present on electron micrographs. Four epithelial cell types were distinguished by ultrastructural criteria. Basal cells were 31% of the population and were similar to those described in other species. Ciliated cells were also similar to those of other species and composed 41% of the population; their nuclei were larger than those of other cell types. Mucous goblet cells had large numbers of secretory granules with electron-dense cores and a lucent periphery. They were only 8% of the population by nuclear count but composed 20% of the epithelial volume. The fourth cell type had multiple small vesicles containing small amounts of granular material and was termed a 'small mucous granule cell'. Small mucous granule cells (16% of the population) were present in greater numbers than mucous goblet cells but were a smaller proportion of the epithelial volume (8%). While population densities of cell types determined from transmission electron micrographs did not vary between samples sites, scanning electron microscopy demonstrated longitudinal streaks of secretory cells in the posterior trachea suggesting that regional differences in epithelial organization exist. We conclude that the macaque extrapulmonary airway epithelium differs from published descriptions of laboratory rodents in both cell types present and relative abundance of those cell types. Although detailed quantitative studies of human extrapulmonary airways are not available, the primate airways resemble those of man in both the types of cells present and the complexity of pseudostratification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-40
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Anatomy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1984

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy


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