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J Anat. 2007 Sep;211(3):387-98. Epub 2007 Jun 15.

Age-dependent changes in the pigeon bursa of Fabricius vasculature: a comparative study using light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy of vessel casts.

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Department of Morphology, Biochemistry, Physiology and Animal Production, Section of Morphology, University of Messina, Italy.


The present study was carried out to analyse the vascularization of the pigeon bursa cloacalis of Fabricius and to determine whether it undergoes age-dependent changes during its functionally most important growth period after hatching of the pigeon. Morphological assessment of vascular corrosion casts, studied qualitatively and quantitatively, was applied for the first time to investigate the vascularization of the pigeon pigeon bursa of Fabricius. This also allowed us to analyse the microvasculature and morphological aspects of the vessel interrelationships as occurring in the natural state. The casts were compared with histological sections stained by haematoxylin-eosin and by binding of the lectin e-PHA (Phaseolus vulgaris, erythroagglutinin) to blood vessels. The vascular architecture of the bursa of Fabricius of the pigeon revealed that the organ is irrigated via two pathways, first through the terminal capillary system of lymphoid follicles arising from the internal pudendal artery, and secondly through arteries originating from the cloacal vasculature of the collum of the organ supplying the periluminal capillary system of the pigeon bursa of Fabricius. Both systems are drained by a venous system which is collateral to the system of the internal pudendal artery and clearly functions as a direct link between the lumen and vasculature of the cloaca or gut, respectively, and the bursa fabricii. This could allow the lymphocytes to be confronted with antigens from the contents of the gut, and their subsequent transport into the secondary lymphoid organs of the organism. Our results demonstrate that the blood vessels, as major and supplying part of the lymphoid system of the bursa Fabricii, clearly reflect three different phases of development: the evolution phase from about day 20 until day 50 post-hatching, the mature phase from days 50 to 90, and the involution phase after day 90. During the evolution phase the density of the vessel system rapidly increases, while in the mature phase the vascular architecture is maintained. The involution phase is dominated by vascular degeneration combined with shrinkage of the whole organ. Therefore, the morphology of the vasculature distinctly reflects the functional status of this primary lymphoid organ during its lifespan.

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