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Microsc Res Tech. 1994 Jan 1;27(1):25-45.

Myoepithelium of salivary glands.

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Oral Pathology Research Laboratory, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Washington, District of Columbia 20422.


In salivary glands and other exocrine organs, there are starfish-shaped cells that lie between the basal lamina and the acinar and ductal cells. These have structural features of both epithelium and smooth muscle cells, and so are called myoepithelial cells. Their functions include contraction when the gland is stimulated to secrete, compressing or reinforcing the underlying parenchymal cells, thus aiding in the expulsion of saliva and preventing damage to the other cells. They also may aid in the propagation of secretory and other stimuli. Their common developmental origin with the basal cells of the larger ducts is displayed in the mature glands by shared structural and immunohistochemical features, but most such basal cells do not have the distinguishing features of myoepithelial cells, such as myofibrils. Although myoepithelial cells can be identified by light microscopy through enzyme histochemistry and special stains and immunohistochemistry for their myofibrils, these techniques can be misleading in salivary gland neoplasms. Thus, the most reliable means of identifying neoplastic myoepithelial cells is with a combination of histochemistry and electron microscopy. The extent to which these cells are derived from undifferentiated stem cells in both normal and neoplastic growth is controversial. The presentation here of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of well-differentiated myoepithelial cells in mitotic division indicates that stem cells are not necessarily the only source of myoepithelial cells in the later stages of salivary gland development or in neoplasia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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