Differentiation of the pancreatic islets in grass snake Natrix natrix embryos, was analyzed using light, transmission electron microscopy, and immuno-gold labeling. The study focuses on the origin of islets, mode of islet formation, and cell arrangement within islets. Two waves of pancreatic islet formation in grass snake embryos were described. The first wave begins just after egg laying when precursors of endocrine cells located within large cell agglomerates in the dorsal pancreatic bud differentiate. The large cell agglomerates were divided by mesenchymal cells thus forming the first islets. This mode of islet formation is described as fission. During the second wave of pancreatic islet formation which is related to the formation of the duct mantle, we observed four phases of islet formation: (a) differentiation of individual endocrine cells from the progenitor layer of duct walls (budding) and their incomplete delamination; (b) formation of two types of small groups of endocrine cells (A/D and B) in the wall of pancreatic ducts; (c) joining groups of cells emerging from neighboring ducts (fusion) and rearrangement of cells within islets; (d) differentiated pancreatic islets with characteristic arrangement of endocrine cells. Mature pancreatic islets of the grass snake contained mainly A endocrine cells. Single B and D or PP-cells were present at the periphery of the islets. This arrangement of endocrine cells within pancreatic islets of the grass snake differs from that reported from most others vertebrate species. Endocrine cells in the pancreas of grass snake embryos were also present in the walls of intralobular and intercalated ducts. At hatching, some endocrine cells were in contact with the lumen of the pancreatic ducts.
Keywords: immuno-gold; islet differentiation; pancreas; snake embryo; structure; ultrastructure.
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