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Larval urodeles are provided with external gills involved, along with the skin, in gas exchange and osmoregulation. Gills and skin epithelia are different, each showing a peculiar set of specialized cells but both provided with Leydig cells (LCs). Information on LCs in the gills is lacking as the literature has focused primarily on the epidermis. Contradictory and fragmentary results highlight that LCs origin, fate, and functions remain not fully understood. Here, we investigated the morpho-functional differences of LCs in the skin and gills of Lissotriton italicus larvae for the first time. LCs showed the same morphological and ultrastructural features in both tissues, even if LCs were significantly larger in the epidermis. Despite the uniform morphology within the LCs population, the proliferative ability was different. The putative diversity in the mucus composition was evaluated using a panel of 4 lectins as markers of specific carbohydrate moieties, revealing that sites of specific glycoconjugates were comparable in two tissues. To disclose the involvement of LCs in water storage and transport, immunofluorescence assay for aquaporin-3 has also been performed, demonstrating the expression of this protein only in gills epithelium. By demonstrating that LCs can multiply by cell division in gills, our results will also contribute to the discussion about their proliferative ability. Finally, we found that the LCs cytoplasm is rich in glycoconjugates, which are involved in many diverse and essential functions in vertebrates. RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS: In gills LCs can multiply by cell division and express aquaporin-3 demonstrating a tissue-specific role of LCs. LCs cytoplasm is rich in glycoconjugates. LCs population show a uniform morphology in both gills and skin. © 2022 The Authors. Microscopy Research and Technique published by Wiley Periodicals LLC.


Elvira Brunelli, Rachele Macirella, Vittoria Curcio, Biagio D'Aniello, Anna Di Cosmo. The differential role of Leydig cells in the skin and gills of Lissotriton italicus larvae. Microscopy research and technique. 2022 Jun;85(6):2113-2122

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PMID: 35092118

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