• Developmental biology;
  • Cell differentiation;
  • Cell division;
  • Growth and deveiopment


To evaluate proliferation as a factor in maintenance of parenchymal cell populations in adult male mouse submandibular glands, a variety of surveys were conducted following a pulse with 3H-thymidine. Striated granular duct (SGD) cells had the highest labeling index, followed by intercalated duct (ID) cells, then acinar (AC) cells, and granular duct (GD) cells had the lowest. These cell types showed from 30% to 60% completion of mitosis by 24 hr, with SGD, AC, and GD showing a likely second wave of mitosis sometime between 2 and 7 days after the pulse. About 40% of the pulse-labeled cells still remained as single cells at 42 days after the pulse. Repeat divisions in daughter cells of the primary labeled cells were very rare. A shift in the pattern of labeled cells at the ID-GD junction indicates that ID and SGD cells in this compartment are differentiating to GD cells. Further comparison of the magnitude of this conversion with the amount of noncompartmental GD cell proliferation provided a basis for calculating that ∼70% of GD cell population maintenance occurs by selfproliferation, and the remaining 30% is contributed by differentiation from ID and SGD cells. A similar survey at the ID-acinus junction showed no evidence of conversion of ID cells to AC cells indicating that most, if not all, proliferative activity leading to AC cell population maintenance occurs by self-proliferation. Finally, based in part on structural changes at the ID-GD junction during the survey period, a pattern of cell conversion described as “in situ differentiation” is proposed. When this pattern is carried to fruition, this explains several structural features of the secretory complex typical to the male pattern submandibular gland. The proposed mechanism is supported by a three-dimensionally reconstructed sequence of likely intermediate structures. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.