Rat adrenal medulla modular organization

Cover Page

Cite item


Relevance. The concept of the tissue morpho-functional units (modules) of the adrenal medulla is currently not fully developed for adrenaline-storing (A-) cells and completely undeveloped for noradrenaline-storing (NA-) cells. Aim. Separately for A- and NA-cells, establish modules in adrenal medulla based on criteria developed by fundamental histology. Materials and Methods. The study used serial, semithin, and ultrathin sections of the adrenal glands, 7-9 µm thick, from 6 adult male Wistar rats (weight 335 ± 25 g). The sections were stained according to the Honoré method with additional staining with toluidine blue, which allows one to reliably distinguish between A and HA cells in the medulla. A cells are stained blue and HA cells are stained green. Light and electron microscopy was used to visualize serial, semithin, and ultrathin sections of the adrenal glands of adult male rats with A- and HA-cell differentiation. Results and Discussion. A-cells formed round clusters, in which they were located in one layer on the basement membrane. Their lateral sides closely adjoined each other, while the inner sides (the central part of the complexes) formed intercellular expansions, microprotrusions, and primary cilia. Less firmly pressed NA-cells formed polyhedral beams. Both types of cell complexes were associated with auxiliary components (stromal, nervous, circulatory, etc.). The central expansions of A-cell round clusters apparently to serve to retain some of the already produced adrenaline, which increases the readiness of the medulla to rapidly release large amounts of adrenaline in case of hyperacute stress. Accordingly, the adherence of A-cell complexes to a rounded shape is determined by the need to create such central isolated storage expansions. NA-cells are located more freely and do not form isolated intercellular expansions. This allows NA-cells to wedge between stably round A-cell complexes and form polyhedral beams as a result. Conclusion. It was found that the rat adrenal medulla contains two logically and morpho-functionally distinct types of specific modules. A-module are A-cells rounded cluster and NA-module is polyhedral NA-cells beam, both associated with auxiliary components.

About the authors

Konstantin G. Kemoklidze

Yaroslavl State Medical University

Author for correspondence.
Email: K_G_K@mail.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4907-7757
Yaroslavl, Russian Federation

Natalia A. Tyumina

Yaroslavl State Medical University

Email: K_G_K@mail.ru
ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7001-0851
Yaroslavl, Russian Federation


  1. Klochkov ND. The histion as the elementary morphofunctional organ unit. Morfologiia. 1997;112(5):87-88. (In Russian).
  2. Danilov RK. General principles of cell organization, development and classification of tissues. In: Danilov RK, editor. Manual of Histology (2nd ed., corr. and add.). St. Petersburg: SpecLit; 2010. 1. P. 98-123. (In Russian).
  3. Kemoklidze, KG. Morphofunctional units of an organ: history and modern state of the question. Morfologiia. 2019;156(5):93-97. (In Russian).
  4. Tomlinson A, Durbin J, Coupland RE. A quantitative analysis of rat adrenal chromaffin tissue: morphometric analysis at tissue and cellular level correlated with catecholamine content. Neuroscience. 1987;20(3):895-904. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(87)90250-8
  5. Pavlov AV, Kemoklidze KG. Cytological mechanisms of the postnatal growth of adrenal chromaffin tissues. Ontogenez. 1998;29(2):123-128. (In Russian)
  6. Coupland RE, Kobayashi S, Tomlinson A. On the presence of small granule chromaffin cells (SGC) in the rodent adrenal medulla. Journal of Anatomy. 1977;124(2):488-489.
  7. Kobayashi S. Adrenal medulla: chromaffin cells as paraneurons. Archivum histologicum japonicum. 1977;40 Suppl:61-79. doi: 10.1679/aohc1950.40.supplement_61
  8. Tischler AS, DeLellis RA. The Rat Adrenal Medulla. I. The Normal Adrenal. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. 1988;7(1):1-21. doi: 10.3109/10915818809078700
  9. Coupland RE. The natural history of the chromaffin cell - twenty-five years on the beginning. Archives of Histology and Cytology. 1989;52(Suppl):331-341. doi: 10.1679/aohc.52.suppl_331
  10. Coupland RE, Tomlinson A. The development and maturation of adrenal medullary chromaffin cells of the rat in vivo: A descriptive and quantitative study. International Journal of Developmental Neuroscience. 1989;7(5):419-438. doi: 10.1016/0736-5748(89)90003-8
  11. Hillarp NA. Functional organization of the peripheral autonomic innervation. Acta Anatomica. 1946-47;2(4):103-130. doi: 10.1159/000140657
  12. Iijima T, Matsumoto G, Kidokoro Y. Synaptic activation of rat adrenal medulla examined with a large photodiode array in combination with a voltage-sensitive dye. Neuroscience. 1992;51(1):211-219. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(92)90486-l
  13. Kajiwara R, Sand O, Kidokoro Y, Barish ME, Iijima T. Functional organization of chromaffin cells and cholinergic synaptic transmission in rat adrenal medulla. Japanese Journal of Physiology. 1997;47(5):449-464. doi: 10.2170/jjphysiol.47.449
  14. Martin AO, Mathieu M-N, Chevillard C, Guérineau NC. Gap junctions mediate electrical signaling and ensuing cytosolic Ca2+ increases between chromaffin cells in adrenal slices: A role in catecholamine release. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2001;21(15):5397-5405. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.21-15-05397.2001
  15. Honoré, LH. A light microscopic method for the differentiation of noradrenaline and adrenaline producing cells of the rat adrenal medulla. Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry. 1971;19(8): 483-486. doi: 10.1177/19.8.483
  16. Kemoklidze KG, Tyumina NA, Leonenko PS. 3D reconstruction of the rat adrenal medulla. Anatomia, Histologia, Embryologia. 2021;50(5):781-787. doi: 10.1111/ahe.12720
  17. Coupland RE. Electron microscopic observations on the structure of the rat adrenal medulla I. The ultrastructure and organization of chromaffin cells in the normal adrenal medulla. Journal of Anatomy. 1965;99(2):231-254.
  18. Coupland RE. Ultrastructural features of the mammalian adrenal medulla. In: Motta P, editor. Ultrastructure of Endocrine Cells and Tissues; 1984. Ch. 15. P. 168-179.
  19. Kikuta A, Ohtani O, Murakami T. Three-dimensional organization of the collagen fibrillar framework in the rat adrenal gland. Archives of Histology and Cytology. 1991;54(2):133-144. doi: 10.1679/aohc.54.133
  20. Kikuta A, Murakami T. Microcirculation of the rat adrenal gland: A scanning electron microscope study of vascular casts. American Journal of Anatomy. 1982;164(1): 19-28. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001640103
  21. Kikuta A, Murakami T. Relationship between chromaffin cells and blood vessels in the rat adrenal medulla: A transmission electron microscopic study combined with blood vessel reconstructions. American Journal of Anatomy. 1984; 170(1):73-81. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001700106
  22. Murakami T, Oukouchi H, Uno Y, Ohtsuka A, Taguchi T. Blood vascular beds of rat adrenal and accessory adrenal glands, with special reference to the corticomedullary portal system: A further scanning electron microscopic study of corrosion casts and tissue specimens. Archives of Histology and Cytology. 1989;52(2):461-476. doi: 10.1679/aohc.52.461
  23. Coupland RE, Selby JE. The blood supply of the mammalian adrenal medulla: A comparative study. Journal of Anatomy. 1976;122(3):539-551.
  24. Nemes Z. The cytoarchitecture of the adrenal medulla in the rat. Acta morphologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae. 1976;24(1-2):47-61.
  25. Lingle CJ, Martinez-Espinosa PL, Guarina L, Carbone E. Roles of Na +, Ca 2+, and K + channels in the generation of repetitive firing and rhythmic bursting in adrenal chromaffin cells. Pflügers Archiv. 2018;470(1):39-52. doi: 10.1007/s00424-017-2048-1
  26. Coupland RE. Electron microscopic observation on the structure of the rat adrenal medulla. II. Normal innervation. Journal of Anatomy. 1965;99(2):255-272.
  27. Tomlinson A, Coupland RE. The innervation of the adrenal gland IV. Innervation of the rat adrenal medulla from birth to old age. A descriptive and quantitative morphometric and biochemical study of the innervation of chromaffin cells and adrenal medullary neurons in Wistar rats. Journal of Anatomy. 1990;169:209-236.
  28. Nordmann JJ. Combined stereological and biochemical analysis of storage and release of catecholamines in the adrenal medulla of the rat. Journal of Neurochemistry. 1984;42(2): 434-437. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.1984.tb02696.x
  29. Vollmer RR, Baruchin A, Kolibal-Pegher SS, Corey SP, Stricker EM, Kaplan BB. Selective activation of norepinephrine- and epinephrine-secreting chromaffin cells in rat adrenal medulla. American Journal of Physiology. 1992;263(3): R 716-R 721. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1992.263.3.R 716
  30. Vollmer RR, Balcita JJ, Sved AF, Edwards DJ. Adrenal epinephrine and norepinephrine release to hypoglycemia measured by microdialysis in conscious rats. American Journal of Physiology. 1997;273(3): R 1758-R 1763. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1997.273.5.R 1758

Copyright (c) 2022 Kemoklidze K.G., Tyumina N.A.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

This website uses cookies

You consent to our cookies if you continue to use our website.

About Cookies