Tracheal submucosal gland development in the rhesus monkey, Macaca mulatta: ultrastructure and histochemistry

Charles G. Plopper, Alison J. Weir, Susan J. Nishio, Diane L. Cranz, Judith A.St George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The submucosal glands are thought to be the primary source of the mucus overlying the primate trachea and conducting airways. This study characterizes the development of submucosal glands in the trachea of the rhesus monkey. Tracheas from 46 age-dated fetal, 8 postnatal and 3 adult rhesus were fixed in glutaraldehyde/paraformaldehyde and slices processed for electron microscopy. The earliest (70 days gestational age (DGA)) indication of gland development was the projection of a group of closely packed electron lucent cells with few organelles and small pockets of glycogen into the submucosa. This configuration was observed up to 110 DGA. In fetuses younger than 87 DGA it was present almost exclusively over cartilaginous areas. Between 80 and 140 DGA, a cylinder of electron lucent cells projected into the submucosal connective tissue perpendicular to the surface. In fetuses younger than 100 DGA, it was restricted to cartilaginous areas. By 90 DGA, some glycogen containing cells in proximal regions contained apical cored granules. By 106 DGA, cells in proximal areas contained apical electron lucent granules. More distal cells had abundant GER and electron dense granules. The most distal cells resembled the undifferentiated cells at younger ages. Ciliated cells were present in the most proximal portions of glands at 120 DGA. This glandular organization was found in older animals, including adults, with the following changes: (1) abundance of proximal cells with electron lucent granules increased; (2) abundance of distal cells with electron dense granules increased; and (3) abundance of distal cells with abundant glycogen and few organelles decreased. We conclude that submucosal gland development in the rhesus monkey: (1) is primarily a prenatal process; (2) occurs first over cartilage; (3) continues into the postnatal period; and (4) involves secretory cell maturation in a proximal to distal sequence with mucous cells differentiating before serous cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-178
Number of pages12
JournalAnatomy and Embryology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1986
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Embryology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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