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Arch Histol Cytol. 2001 May;64(2):191-201.

Morphological characteristics of Schwann cells in the islets of Langerhans of the murine pancreas.

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Department of Anatomy and Histology, Niigata University, Japan.


The present study demonstrated the three-dimensional architecture of peri-insular nerve plexuses in the murine pancreas by the combined use of light microscopy of S-100 immunostained sections, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of thin sections, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of KOH digested tissues. By light microscopy of thin sections immunostained with anti-S-100 antibody, Schwann cells were often found on the margin of the islets as if delimiting the islet and exocrine parenchyma. In thick sections, Schwann cells of the islet connected their thin and slender processes with each other to form a delicate network on the surface of the islet. By TEM, Schwann cells were observed as an attenuated sheet that invested the surface of the islet. Axon terminals were usually found on the outer surface of these membranous Schwann cells. SEM of KOH digested tissues revealed that nerves reaching the islet spread on the insular surface. Schwann cells in this portion extended their thin membranous processes, which directly covered the basal part of several endocrine cells as a whole. Numerous axons with varicosities were usually found on the surface of these membranous Schwann cells, but sometimes crept beneath them. These findings indicate that "the interstitial cells" described by light microscopists are peculiar-shaped Schwann cells present in the islets. The functional significance of the rich innervation of the islets is also briefly discussed in the present study.

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