Electron microscopic observations on the vomeronasal sensory epithelium of a crotaline snake, Trimeresurus flavoviridis

J Morphol. 1990 Jul;205(1):45-61. doi: 10.1002/jmor.1052050106.


The vomeronasal sensory epithelium of a crotaline snake, Trimeresurus flavoviridis, was shown to consist of a superficial supporting cell layer and an underlying sensory cell layer composed of columns of sensory cells. The supporting cell layer consists of both supporting cells and dendrites of the underlying sensory neurons. The apical regions of sensory cell dendrites contain numerous microtubules, many elongated mitochondria, centrioles, and electron-dense bodies. The dendrites terminate as dendritic knobs from which microvilli project into the vomeronasal lumen. Smooth vesicles are abundant in the dendritic terminals and their vicinity. Supporting cells also bear microvilli, and these cells contain large electron-opaque granules and dense vesicles near their free surfaces. Cytoplasmic extensions of the supporting cells form a meshwork which separates dendrxites from each other in the vicinity of the luminal surface. The meshwork becomes obliterated in the infranuclear region of each supporting cell. Bipolar-shaped sensory cells with lightly stained round nuclei contain the characteristic cell organelles of neurons and are thought to be sensory neurons. These cells are especially characterized by well-developed lamellae of rough endoplasmic reticulum and extensive arrays of smooth endoplasmic reticulum. The perikarya of cells located in the apical region of the cell columns tend to contain larger amounts of smooth endoplasmic reticulum and lipofuscin granules than the perikarya of cells located in lower regions. Undifferentiated cells are found in the basal region of the columns. Satellite cells form the framework of the columns and are also found among neuronal elements.