Comparative study of gill neuroepithelial cells and their innervation in teleosts and Xenopus tadpoles
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Peripheral O(2) chemoreceptors initiate adaptive cardiorespiratory responses to hypoxia in vertebrates. Morphological and physiological evidence suggests that, in fish, neuroepithelial cells (NECs) of the gill perform this role. We conducted a comparative examination in three species of teleosts (zebrafish, goldfish and trout) and larvae of the amphibian Xenopus laevis, using whole-mount gill preparations and confocal immunofluorescence, to elucidate the distribution, morphology and innervation of gill NECs. Nerve fibres were immunolabelled with the neuronal marker zn-12 and were associated with serotonin-immunoreactive NECs in the gills of all species tested. With the exception of trout, innervated NECs were present on all gill arches in the filaments and respiratory lamellae in fish and on homologous structures in Xenopus (i.e. gill "tufts", including respiratory terminal branches). Thus, the distribution and innervation of NECs of the internal gills of amphibians and teleosts are relatively well conserved, suggesting an important role for gill NECs as O(2) chemoreceptors in aquatic vertebrates. Furthermore, the size and density of gill NECs is variable among teleosts and developmental stages of Xenopus larvae and may be dependent on general gill dimensions or environmental conditions. This report constitutes the first comparative study of gill NECs in fish and amphibians and highlights the significance of gill NECs as an evolutionary model for studying O(2) sensing in vertebrates.
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