Immunohistochemical analysis of sustentacular cells in the adrenal medulla, carotid body and sympathetic ganglion of mice using an antibody against brain-type fatty acid binding protein (B-FABP)

J Anat. 2015 Apr;226(4):348-53. doi: 10.1111/joa.12285. Epub 2015 Mar 9.


Little attention has been paid to adrenal sustentacular cells, and several major histology textbooks do not even describe them. This study presents a detailed morphological description of sustentacular cells using immuno-light microscopy and an antibody against brain-type fatty acid-binding protein. The immunopositive sustentacular cells and processes formed lattices with holes of various sizes and compactnesses or openness. In addition, weakly immunostained sheet-like structures with ill-defined contours were often associated with the processes and lattices. In the carotid body, which has traditionally been classified under the name of paraganglia in common with the adrenal medulla, immunostained sustentacular cell processes formed lattices in association with the weakly immunostained sheet-like structures, but the lattices with sheets were more compact and rigid than the adrenal medulla, and appeared like individually distinct compartments. In the ganglion, the immunostained satellite cell processes with the sheets tightly enclosed individual neurons. As a result, the immunostained sheet-like structures were regarded as en-face views of thinly flattened sustentacular cytoplasmic envelopes partially covering the chromaffin cells in the adrenal medulla, and widely in the carotid body in a way rather similar to the satellite cells in the ganglion. In brief, the terminal enclosing portions of adrenal sustentacular cell processes, in cut-views, were too thin/flat to be recognized as distinct lines in immuno-light microscopy because of its resolution limit. They are recognized in en-face views as entities of a substantially spacious extension in immuno-light microscopy.

Keywords: adrenal medulla; brain type-fatty acid-binding protein; immunohistochemistry; light microscopy; sustentacular cell; transmission electron microscopy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Medulla / cytology*
  • Adrenal Medulla / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Carotid Body / cytology*
  • Carotid Body / metabolism
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / cytology*
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Microscopy / methods
  • Microscopy, Electron


  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins