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J Morphol. 1998 Apr;236(1):65-73.

Ultrastructure of the supporting cells in the paratympanic organ of chicken, Gallus gallus domesticus.

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Dipartimento di Morfologia Umana e Biologia Applicata, Facoltà di Medicina e Chirurgia, Università degli Studi di Pisa, Italy.


The paratympanic organ is a specialized sensory organ of birds located in the medial wall of the tympanic cavity. It possesses a sensory epithelium formed by type II hair cells and supporting cells. The supporting cells are tall, narrow units that extend from the basement membrane to the free epithelial surface. They show a fine structure characterized by numerous mitochondria, a conspicuous Golgi complex and a well-developed RER. Moreover, some uncommon structures, probably formed by heaped RER cisternae, are frequently present in the cytoplasm. Adjacent supporting cells are connected by numerous and extensive gap junctions; moreover, small gap junctions between hair cell and supporting cells are to be found. The possible mechanical and metabolical functions of the paratympanic organ supporting cells are discussed.

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