Stereological Estimation of Surface Area and Barrier Thickness of Fish Gills in Vertical Sections

J Microsc. 2007 Jan;225(Pt 1):1-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2818.2007.01710.x.


Previous morphometric methods for estimation of the volume of components, surface area and thickness of the diffusion barrier in fish gills have taken advantage of the highly ordered structure of these organs for sampling and surface area estimations, whereas the thickness of the diffusion barrier has been measured orthogonally on perpendicularly sectioned material at subjectively selected sites. Although intuitively logical, these procedures do not have a demonstrated mathematical basis, do not involve random sampling and measurement techniques, and are not applicable to the gills of all fish. The present stereological methods apply the principles of surface area estimation in vertical uniform random sections to the gills of the Brazilian teleost Arapaima gigas. The tissue was taken from the entire gill apparatus of the right-hand or left-hand side (selected at random) of the fish by systematic random sampling and embedded in glycol methacrylate for light microscopy. Arches from the other side were embedded in Epoxy resin. Reference volume was estimated by the Cavalieri method in the same vertical sections that were used for surface density and volume density measurements. The harmonic mean barrier thickness of the water-blood diffusion barrier was calculated from measurements taken along randomly selected orientation lines that were sine-weighted relative to the vertical axis. The values thus obtained for the anatomical diffusion factor (surface area divided by barrier thickness) compare favourably with those obtained for other sluggish fish using existing methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diffusion
  • Fishes / anatomy & histology*
  • Fishes / physiology
  • Gills / anatomy & histology*
  • Gills / physiology
  • Microscopy / methods
  • Respiration
  • Tissue Embedding / methods