Two types of chloride cells in the gill epithelium of a freshwater-adapted euryhaline fish: Lebistes reticulatus; their modifications during adaptation to saltwater

Am J Anat. 1987 May;179(1):40-50. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001790106.


Two types of chloride cells were identified in the gill epithelium of freshwater-adapted guppies. One type, referred to as an "alpha-chloride cell," was a pale, elongated cell located at the base of the secondary lamella in close contact with the arterioarterial pillar capillaries. In its cytoplasm, membranous tubules in continuity with its basolateral plasma membrane formed an extended tridimensional network. The vesiculotubular system (Pisam: Anat. Rec. 200:401-414, 1981) consisted of a few tubules and vesicles located next to the apical plasma membrane. A second type, referred to as a "beta-chloride cell," was a darker, ovoid cell located in the interlamellar region of the primary epithelium facing the central venous sinus. Membranous tubules in continuity with the basolateral plasma membrane were unevenly distributed in the cytoplasm. A prominent vesiculotubular system composed of numerous vesicles and tubules was found between the Golgi apparatus and the apical surface. During seawater adaptation, the alpha-chloride cells increased in size and progressively transformed into characteristic "seawater alpha-chloride cells" with a well-developed, regular, tight tubular network and numerous vesicles and tubules of the vesiculotubular system accumulated below the apical pit. The beta-chloride cells underwent a progressive degeneration and disappeared. Thus, in freshwater-adapted guppies, there are two types of chloride cells, alpha and beta, respectively, related to the arterial and the venous vessels, whereas in seawater-adapted fishes, a single type of cell, the alpha-chloride cell, was related to both the arterial and venous channels.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Chlorides / metabolism*
  • Cyprinodontiformes / physiology*
  • Epithelium / physiology
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Fresh Water
  • Gills / physiology*
  • Gills / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Poecilia / anatomy & histology
  • Poecilia / physiology*
  • Seawater


  • Chlorides