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Microsc Res Tech. 1992 May 1;21(3):227-41.

Immunocytochemistry and calcium cytochemistry of the mammalian pineal organ: a comparison with retina and submammalian pineal organs.

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Neuroendocrine Section, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Semmelweis University Medical School, Budapest.


Morphologically the mammalian pineal organ is a part of the diencephalon. It represents a neural tissue histologically ("pineal nervous tissue") and is dissimilar to endocrine glands. Submammalian pinealocytes resemble the photoreceptor cells of the retina, and some of their cytologic characteristics are preserved in the mammalian pinealocytes together with compounds demonstrable by cyto- and immunocytochemistry and participating in photochemical transduction. In our opinion, the main trend of today's literature on pineal functions--only considering the organ as a common endocrine gland--deviates from this structural and histochemical basis. In mammals, similar to the lower vertebrates, the pinealocytes have a sensory cilium developed to a different extent. The axonic processes of pinealocytes form ribbon-containing synapses on secondary pineal neurons, and/or neurohormonal terminals on the basal lamina of the surface of the pineal nervous tissue facing the perivascular spaces. Ribbon-containing axo-dendritic synapses were found in the rat, cat, guinea pig, ferret, and hedgehog. In the cat, we found GABA-immunoreactive interneurons, while the secondary nerve cells, whose axons enter the habenular commissure, were GABA-immunonegative. GABA-immunogold-labeled axons run between pinealocytes and form axo-dendritic synapses on intrapineal neurons. There is a similarity between the light and electron microscopic localization of Ca ions in the mammalian and submammalian pineal organs and retina of various vertebrates. Calcium pyroantimonate deposits--showing the presence of Ca ions--were found in the outer segments of the pineal and retinal photoreceptors of the frog. In the rat and human pineal organ, calcium accumulated on the plasmalemma of pinealocytes and intercellularly among pinealocytes. The formation of pineal concrements in mammals may be connected to the high need for Ca exchange of the pinealocytes for their supposed receptor and effector functions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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