The Alimentary Canal of the African Lungfish Protopterus annectens During Aestivation and After Arousal



We describe the structural modifications that occur in the alimentary canal of the African lungfish Protopterus annectens during aestivation and after arousal. With fasting, all gut segments undergo structural modifications. The epithelium covering the intestinal vestibule undergoes bursts of activation at 4 months of aestivation, adopting a more quiescent appearance at 6 months. The ridge area of the spiral intestine shows, at 4 months of aestivation, epithelial disintegration, cell desquamation, cell death, and loss of the freshwater phenotype. Surprisingly, the epithelium adopts a stratified appearance at 6 months of aestivation. Except for epithelial disintegration, the smooth portion of the spiral intestine follows a similar pattern of modifications than the ridge area. The entire epithelium of spiral intestine appears to be renewed during aestivation. The presence of intraepithelial mast cells suggests that inflammation is part of the cellular response to aestivation. After arousal, cell phenotypes are restored in about 6 days, but full structural recovery is not attained during the experimental period (15 days post-aestivation). Several aspects of the cellular response to fasting are shared by a wide range of animal groups. This commonality agrees with the presence of a character that allows to adjust the structural and functional properties of the gut to food availability and food quality, and to the characteristics of the fasting episodes. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.