Telocytes in pleura: two- and three-dimensional imaging by transmission electron microscopy

Cell Tissue Res. 2011 Feb;343(2):389-97. doi: 10.1007/s00441-010-1095-0. Epub 2010 Dec 22.


Information about the ultrastructure of connective (interstitial) cells supporting the pleural mesothelium is scarce. Our aim has been to examine whether telocytes (TCs) are present in pleura, as in epicardium and mesentery. TCs are a distinct type of cell, characterized by specific prolongations named telopodes (Tp). We have used transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and electron tomography (ET) to determine whether ultrastructural diagnostic criteria accepted for TCs are fulfilled by any of the cell subpopulations existing in the sub-mesothelial layer in mouse and human pleura. TCs have been identified with TEM by their characteristic prolongations. Tp appear long and moniliform, because of the alternation of podomeres (thin segments of less than 0.2 μm) and podoms (small dilations accommodating caveolae, mitochondria, and endoplasmic reticulum). Tp ramifications follow a dichotomic pattern and establish specialized cell-to-cell junctional complexes. TCs, via their Tp, seem to form an interstitial network beneath the mesothelium, covering about two-thirds of the abluminal mesothelial layer. ET has revealed complex junctional structures and tight junctions connecting pleural TCs, and small vesicles at this level in Tp. Thus, pleural TCs share significant similarities with TCs described in other serosae. Whether TCs are a (major) player in mesothelial-cell-induced tissue repair remains to be established. Nevertheless, the extremely long thin Tp and complex junctional structures that they form and the release of vesicles (or exosomes) indicate the participation of TCs in long-distance homo- or heterocellular communication.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission / methods
  • Pleura / ultrastructure*