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Stain Technol. 1990;65(3):131-7.

Enzyme-histochemical identification of lymphatic vessels by light and backscattered image scanning electron microscopy.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, Medical College of Oita, Japan.


The walls of lymphatics are characterized by strong 5'-nucleotidase activity, whereas those of blood capillaries reveal significantly lower or no activity. Alkaline phosphatase activity, on the other hand, is markedly higher in blood capillaries than in lymphatic vessels. On the basis of such characteristics, lymphatics and blood capillaries were distinguished histochemically in rat stomach using 5'-nucleotidase-alkaline phosphatase double staining. The distribution and intensity of lead-demonstrated 5'-nucleotidase activity in lymphatic vessels could be determined by comparing the images of the same histochemically stained cryostat section as seen by light and backscattered image scanning electron microscopy. The specificity of the 5'-nucleotidase reaction was obtained by inhibiting nonspecific alkaline phosphatase by including L-tetramisole in the 5'-nucleotidase incubation medium. The products of the 5'-nucleotidase activity were deposited on the outer surface of the plasma membrane of the lymphatic endothelial cells.

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