Life and Medical Sciences
Cell & Developmental Biology
Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
In sections of thymus stained with the tannic acid-phosphomolybdic acid-amido black (TPA) technique, the epithelial reticular cells can readily be identified by the well-stained tonofibrils in their cytoplasm. In the cortex, flattened epithelial reticular cells form a continuous layer on the inner surface of the capsule and along the interlobular septa. Within the cortex proper, stellate epithelial reticular cells are widely dispersed as a loose network. In the medulla, two zones, referred to as “outer” and “inner” medulla, are distinguished. The outer medulla, like the cortex, contains epithelial reticular cells, but these are more voluminous, are more richly provided with tonofibrils and form a denser network than in the cortex. In the inner medulla no epithelial reticular cells can be seen but instead connective tissue cells and fibers make up the supporting framework. A layer of flattened epithelial reticular cells demarcates the outer from the inner medulla. This layer of cells also extends along the outer surface of blood capillaries seen in the outer medulla and cortex. Around the larger blood vessels, this layer of epithelial reticular cells is separated from the vessel wall by a connective tissue perivascular space. Hence, the inner medulla is continuous with the perivascular spaces and, like them, is supported by connective tissue. Thus, the epithelial reticular cells constitute the supporting framework of the cortex and outer medulla and separate these regions from the connective tissue of the capsule, interlobular septa, blood vessels and inner medulla.
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