Although the histological features and endocrine cells of the gastro-intestinal tract of the chicken have been well studied, little is known about these features of the gut of the ostrich. The present study was undertaken to elucidate the histology and peptide-storing endocrine cells of the ostrich.
As a rule the histological features of the gastro-intestinal tract of the ostrich corresponded to that of the fowl. However, certain differences were observed.
The superficial proventricular glands were simple, branched tubular glands, while the deep proventricular glands were restricted to a slipper-shaped area and extended into the muscularis mucosae. The gizzard had a variably developed muscularis mucosae, a feature that seems to be unique to the ostrich. The villi of the small intestine were long and branched profusely, forming a labyrinthine surface. No Paneth cells were observed. The mucosa of the ceca and the first part of the rectum was thrown in large circular folds, forming a compressed spiral. Numerous melanocytes were seen in the submucosa and the connective tissue around the blood vessels of the muscle layers at the tips of the ceca. A well developed subserosa was present throughout the gastro-intestinal tract.
Endocrine cells immunoreactive to somatostatin, glucagon, gastrin, bombesin, neurotensin, substance P and pancreatic polypeptide were detected in the gastro-intestinal tract of the ostrich. The topographical distribution of those endocrine cells immunoreactive to glucagon, bombesin, neurotensin and substance P differed from that of the chicken. The results of this investigation inferred that at least one of the gut peptides of the ostrich (secretin) to be structurally different from its counterparts in mammal and chicken. Molecular heterogeneity of somatostatin was observed in endocrine cells situated in the deep ventricular glands of the ostrich.
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