Functional Histology and Ultrastructure of the Digestive Tract in Two Species of Chitons (Mollusca, Polyplacophora)

Alexandre Lobo-da-Cunha, Ângela Alves, Elsa Oliveira, Gonçalo Calado

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To continue the investigation on the digestive system of polyplacophoran molluscs, a histological and ultrastructural study of the oesophagus, stomach and intestine of Chaetopleura angulata and Acanthochitona fascicularis was carried out. Stomach content examination revealed an omnivorous diet. In both species the epithelium of the whole digestive tract consisted mostly of elongated absorptive cells with an apical border of microvilli. Cilia were also frequently present. Mitochondria and electron-dense lysosomes were the prominent organelles in the region above the nucleus. The basal region was characterised by an association of mitochondria, peroxisomes and lipid droplets. In general, glycogen deposits were also abundant in absorptive cells. The ultrastructural features indicate that the absorptive cells of the digestive tract epithelium are involved in endocytosis, intracellular digestion and storage of reserves. Histochemical techniques showed that the secretory cells of the digestive tract contained proteins and polysaccharides in their secretory vesicles. The secretory cells with vesicles of low electron density were classified as mucous cells, and the ones with electron-dense vesicles were designated basophilic cells due to their staining by basic dyes in light microscopy. Additionally, basal cells that seem to correspond to enteroendocrine cells containing oval electron-dense vesicles were found along the digestive tract epithelium of both species. The thin outer layer of the digestive tract wall consisted of muscle cells and nerves embedded in connective tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2022


  • Electron microscopy
  • Histochemistry
  • Intestine
  • Oesophagus
  • Polyplacophora
  • Stomach


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