Ultrastructure of the nonciliated bronchiolar epithelial (clara) cell of mammalian lung. III. A study of man with comparison of 15 mammalian species

Charles Plopper, Lila H. Hill, Andrew T. Mariassy

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134 Scopus citations


Two morphologic characteristics have been used to define the nonciliated bronchiolar epithelial cell: (1) abundance of agranular endoplasmic reticulum (AER) and (2) numerous membrane-bound ovoid granules. In this study, we examined lobectomy specimens from three nonsmoking humans: one male (9.5 yr) and two females (62 and 43 yr) for comparison with lung specimens from mammalian species used as experimental models in lung research. Following fixation by airway infusion at constant pressure (20 cm), lung tissue was processed by a selective embedding technique and bronchioles of known anatomic location were studied by electron microscopy. Nonciliated bronchiolar epithelial cells of man contained numerous membrane-bound granules (averaging 6 per cell) in the apical cytoplasm and abundant granular endoplasmic reticulum (GER). AER was not observed. Granules averaged 0.3 μm in diameter and contained a fine granular matrix and parallel tubular arrays. After comparing these features in man with those of fifteen other species, we concluded that there is a great deal of interspecies variability in the cellular morphology of the nonciliated epithelial cell of distal conducting airways in mammalian lung. Three categories of this cell were observed: (1) with abundant granules and AER, characteristic of rabbit, guinea pig, rat, hamster, mouse, horse, sheep, and pig; (2) with abundant granules of GER, but no AER, characteristic of man and other primates; and (3) with few granules, little AER, and abundant glycogen, characteristic of steer, dog, cat, and ferret.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-180
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Lung Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1980
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Clinical Biochemistry

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