Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract To elucidate the role of glycogen in the epithelium of developing digestive organs, we investigated the appearance of glycogen and glycogen phosphorylase (GP) in these organs. We studied 64 externally normal human embryos at Carnegie stages 13–23 (5.1–28.0 mm in crown-ramp length, 4–8 weeks of gestation) by histocytochemical staining for glycogen and immunohistochemical staining with antibodies against two isoenzymes of GP: brain-type (BGP) and mucle-brain-type (MBGP) GP. At stage 13, glycogen appeared in the epithelium of the digestive tract and the parenchyma of the pancreas. As development advanced, glycogen granules increased in number and size in these tissues, and they became evenly distributed in the epithelium of the digestive tract as either single particles or aggregates, as deduced by electron microscopy at late embryonic stages. Immunoreactivity specific both for BGP and for MBGP was detected in the digestive tract and the pancreas from stage 13. As development advanced, both BGP- and MBGP-immunoreactive cells increased in number and in immunoreactivity, and the number of MBGP-immunoreactive cells became larger than that of BGP-immunoreactive cells. By contrast, in hepatic cells, which serve as a major storage site for glycogen in adults, glycogen was detected only from stage 20, in smaller amounts, without formation of aggregates, and no immunoreactivity specific for BGP or MBGP was apparent throughout the embryonic stages examined. Thus, in the epithelium of the digestive tract and the parenchyma of the pancreas, but not in hepatic cells, the appearance and localization of GP coincided almost exactly with that of glycogen. These observations suggest that glycogen in the epithelium of the digestive tract and the parenchyma of the pancreas has not only been synthesized but also degraded from an early embryonic period and may, thus, be related to active cellular metabolism that is specific for embryonic development, including proliferation of the epithelium and interactions between epithelium and mesenchyme.
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