Tracheobronchial epithelium of the sheep: I. Quantitative light‐microscopic study of epithelial cell abundance, and distribution

Andrew T. Mariassy, Charles G. Plopper

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52 Scopus citations


Glutaraldehyde‐infused tracheas and airways of five castrated sheep were microdissected following the axial airway of the left cranial and caudal lobes. Airway branches were assigned binary numbers indicating their specific location in the tracheobronchial tree. Samples of known airway generation were resin embedded and examined by light‐microscopy. Based on differences in cell morphology, staining properties, and distribution, eight major cell groups were recognized and quantified: four mucous cell categories (M1, M2, M3, and M4), ciliated, basal, Clara, and serous cells. The last cell category was restricted to submucosal glands. Tracheal epithelium had the most cells per unit length, primarily due to large numbers of basal cells. Basal cells are found in the epithelium of airways without cartilage or glands. The total mucous cell population (M1, M2, and M3) in proximal airways was relatively constant. M4 mucous cells were present in glands of proximal airways and in the epithelial lining of the airways without glands. The most distal airways were lined by Clara and ciliated cells. A small number of the most proximal noncartilaginous airways had mucous (M1, M2, M3, and M4), basal, and Clara cells sharing the epithelial lining. We conclude that in the sheep lung: (1) epithelial cell distribution does not correlate with airway wall components; (2) more than one type of secretory epithelial cell can share the lining of the same airway; and (3) Clara cell distribution is based on airway generation and proximity to alveoli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-275
Number of pages13
JournalThe Anatomical Record
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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