Parathyroid cell number and size in hypercalcemic rats: a stereologic study employing modern unbiased estimators

J Bone Miner Res. 1989 Oct;4(5):705-13. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.5650040509.


Recently developed stereologic methods for unbiased estimations of particle number and size were employed to study parathyroid growth in normal and hypercalcemic young rats. Thus, the parathyroid cell number and size of parathyroid secretory cells were estimated by both the disector method and the volume-weighted mean volume method. The glandular volume was calculated from serial sections, and the volume density of secretory cells was estimated by conventional stereologic techniques. Three groups of animals were studied: normal rats at 3 weeks of age, hypercalcemic rats at 7 weeks of age, and age-matched controls. Hypercalcemia was induced by feeding the animals a purified diet that was nutritionally adequate except for low amounts of phosphate (0.02%) from 3 weeks of age. During the period from 3 to 7 weeks of age, the number of parathyroid secretory cells increased by 100%, whereas the mean cell volume increased by 20%. However, when calculated per gram body weight the volume and number of cells were larger in the younger animals. The phosphate-depleted animals grew slowly and developed severe hypercalcemia. Their parathyroid secretory cells were smaller, and each gland contained fewer cells than in age-matched controls. The lower cell number and cell volume, however, were proportional to the reduced body weight. Data from the 3-week-old animals indicate that the reduced cell number and size in hypercalcemic rats reflected growth arrest rather than atrophy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure
  • Hypercalcemia / pathology*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Parathyroid Glands / cytology
  • Parathyroid Glands / growth & development
  • Parathyroid Glands / pathology*
  • Phosphates / administration & dosage
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains


  • Phosphates