Immunohistochemistry and ultrastructure of myoepithelium and modified myoepithelium of the ducts of human major salivary glands: histogenetic implications for salivary gland tumors

Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol. 1987 Dec;64(6):703-15. doi: 10.1016/0030-4220(87)90173-3.


The organization of salivary gland ducts, especially the presence or absence of myoepithelial cells, is central to histogenetic approaches to the classification of salivary gland tumors. Striated and excretory ducts are reported to be devoid of myoepithelial cells but do contain basal cells. To investigate the nature of such basal cells, tissue sections of normal human salivary glands were examined by means of immunohistochemical, ultrastructural, and fluorescent microscopic techniques. With the use of a mouse monoclonal anticytokeratin antibody (3 12C8-1) that, in salivary glands, is specific for myoepithelial cells, these cells associated with acini and intercalated ducts were strongly stained, as were the basal cells of striated and excretory ducts in each case. Ultrastructurally, some basal cells of both striated and excretory ducts had narrow, elongated cellular processes or the main portion of the cell containing parallel arrays of microfilaments with linear densities and micropinocytotic vesicles, whereas in other basal cells tonofilament bundles predominated. A similar range of cytoplasmic features existed in myoepithelial cells associated with acinar and intercalated duct cells. In addition, some duct basal cells have a complement of actin filaments similar to classic myoepithelium of acini and intercalated ducts. Striated and excretory ducts of human salivary glands, therefore, contain fully differentiated and modified myoepithelial cells, both of which express a specific cytokeratin polypeptide that is absent from duct luminal and acinar cells. Differentiation patterns in the intralobular and interlobular ducts suggest that these regions of salivary gland parenchyma cannot be excluded as histogenetic sites for the induction of salivary gland tumors in which neoplastic myoepithelial cells have been shown to have a major role.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Salivary Gland Diseases / metabolism
  • Salivary Gland Diseases / pathology*
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / classification*
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / ultrastructure
  • Salivary Glands / metabolism
  • Salivary Glands / ultrastructure*