Development of the digestive tract of sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax L). Light and electron microscopic studies

Anat Embryol (Berl). 2001 Jul;204(1):39-57. doi: 10.1007/s004290100173.


The developing gut of sea bass was studied by light and electron microscopy, four phases being established. Phase I, from hatching to the opening of the mouth, was a lecitotrophic period, in which the gut appeared as a straight undifferentiated tube lined by a simple epithelium that became stratified in the most caudal region. The epithelial cells increased in length towards the caudal zone, as did the number and height of the apical microvilli and the magnitude of the lamellar structures in their basal region. Cilia were more numerous in the caudal region than in the rest of the gut. Signs of lipid but not of protein absorption were found in the epithelial cells at this phase. Phase II, from the opening of the mouth to the complete resorption of the yolk sac, was a lecitoexotrophic period in which an esophagus, a gastric region, an intestine and a rectum, the last two separated by a valve, were present. During this phase the differentiation of the gut started at the esophagus and the rectum. In the esophagus, the epithelium became stratified and goblet cells containing acid mucosubstances, including sulphomucins, appeared. In the epithelial cells of the rectum, supranuclear vacuoles and an incipient endocytotic apparatus that seemed to be involved in the absorption and digestion of proteins were found. In both regions the mucosa was folded. Phase III, from the complete resorption of the yolk sac to the appearance of the first gastric glands, initiated the exclusively exotrophic period. During this phase the intestine formed the mucosa folds, while the first pyloric caeca and the epithelial cells acquired the ultrastructural features of mature absorptive cells with many lipid inclusions. Goblet cells containing neutral mucosubstances appeared and increased in number in both the intestine and the rectum. Neutral mucosubstances were also present in the cells lining the gastric region. During phase IV, from the appearance of the first gastric glands onwards, the intestinal absorptive surface increased with the formation of new pyloric caeca and two intestinal loops. The stomach acquired its definitive anatomy and histology with the development of the caecal and pyloric regions alongside differentiated gastric glands. The glandular cells had the ultrastructural features of the cells that secrete both pepsinogen and hydrochloride acid in the adult teleost stomach.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bass / embryology*
  • Digestive System / cytology
  • Digestive System / enzymology*
  • Digestive System / ultrastructure
  • Larva / cytology
  • Larva / ultrastructure