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Cell Tissue Res. 1989 Feb;255(2):353-62.

Distribution and frequency of neuro-epithelial bodies in post-natal rabbit lung: quantitative study with monoclonal antibody against serotonin.

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Department of Pathology, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


The distribution, frequency and size of neuroepithelial bodies (NEB) were studied in lungs of rabbits during different stages of development (27-day fetus, newborn, 6, 11, 21, 28 and 56 days postnatally). NEB were visualized by immunostaining with monoclonal antibody against serotonin. Detailed quantitation of NEB was performed by use of camera lucida drawings of immunostained serial sections from the same anatomical region, i.e. the lower lobe of the left lung. The total number of NEB was counted and expressed per epithelial length of airway, surface area and volume. The size of NEB defined as surface area as well as the position of NEB in relation to the airway bifurcations was assessed in airways of different sizes. The overall number and size of NEB were found to increase during the immediate perinatal period followed by a sharp decline at 56 days of age. The number of NEB peaked at 6 days postnatally (mean 175.5 NEB/mm3 of airway epithelium) and declined significantly (3.0 NEB/mm3) at 56 days of postnatal age. The size of NEB reached its maximum at 11 days (mean surface area 659.54 microns 2, with the largest NEB measuring 1839.98 microns 2). By 56 days of age, NEB became significantly smaller (mean surface area 177.29 microns 2) consisting of small clusters of cells situated deep within the airway epithelium. At all ages, about half of all NEB (mean 47.6%) were localized within the small peripheral airways with up to 63.9% located at airway bifurcations. These findings indicate that the "functional activity" of NEB may be confined predominantly to the perinatal period. The postulated functions of NEB include those of intrapulmonary hypoxia-sensitive chemoreceptors and/or endocrine-paracrine activity in the lung. Such functions(s) may be important during adaptation to extrauterine life as well as for growth and development of the lung.

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