The apical region of open-type paraneurons in tubular organs functions as a receptor site for chemical information in the lumen. Electron microscopic studies have demonstrated a tuft of microvilli on the luminal surface of cells, but failed to visualize it three-dimensionally. The present scanning electron microscope (SEM) observation succeeded in viewing, from the luminal side, open-type paraneurons distributed in epithelia of the stomach, intestine, and urethra. The pyloric antrum of avian species and the duodenum of human fetuses, the latter forming an endocrine cell colony at every villus tip, were chosen for SEM observation in order to eliminate visual obstruction by adjacent epithelial cells with developed microvilli. The luminal surface of gut endocrine cells was consistently covered with a tuft of 80-200 microvilli. Pyloric paraneurons possessed thick and stiff microvilli as compared with those of exocrine cells. The microvilli on intestinal paraneurons were more irregular in length and more loosely grouped than those composing the striated border of enterocytes. Urethral paraneurons containing serotonin were surrounded by three or four polygonal epithelial cells. Their narrow apical surface was provided with 30-100 microvilli which varied in length from cell to cell, and which were conspicuously projected above the luminal surface of the urethra. The microvillous crown of the gut and urethral paraneurons was so prominent and constant a structure on the apical surface as to allow easy identification of open-type paraneurons under the SEM.
1999 by International Society of Histology and Cytology