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Abstract

The ultrastructural characteristics of five morphologically distinct regions of sustentacular cells in the salamander olfactory mucosa are described. 1) The apical region was characterized by a microvillar surface that lay below the level of the olfactory knob of olfactory receptor neurons and contained endosome-like vesicles and a filamentous array at the level of the zonula adherens. 2) The supranuclear region contained rough and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, a Golgi complex, and secretory vesicles. Few sustentacular cells showed morphological signs of secretion, suggesting a low rate of baseline secretory activity. 3) The nuclear region contained the cylindrical nucleus surrounded by a thin band of cytoplasm containing bundles of filaments. 4) The central stalk contained filamentous arrays, Golgi-like cisternae, multivesicular bodies, and peroxisomes. Cytoplasmic veils that extended from the central stalk contained filamentous aggregates. 5) The basilar expansion had a complex series of lateral and basal folds. The lateral folds enveloped extracellular material and nonmyelinated axons of the receptor neurons. The basal folds formed complex interdigitations with the basal lamina, particularly in regions occupied by blood vessels and the acini of Bowman's glands in the subjacent lamina propria. These characteristics, and the presence of endosome-like vesicles and mitochondria, suggest that the basilar expansion is metabolically active and participates in cellular transport of material. Treatment with the odorant 2-isobutyl-3-methoxypyrazine caused ultrastructural changes in the apical and supranuclear regions that were associated with secretion and in the basilar expansion region that were indicative of an increase in metabolic and transport activity.