• atomic force microscopy;
  • gastric gland;
  • parietal cell;
  • chief cell;
  • acid secretion

The authors have examined the morphology of the apical membrane of living gastric glands from both the rat and rabbit with an atomic force microscope using both a conventional upright configuration and in the new inverted bioscope mode. Individual gastric glands were hand dissected and the apical membrane was exposed using a microsurgical approach. The split open glands allowed to access and directly image 4–6 cells with their apical axis available to the scanning tip of the atomic force microscope. All cells were scanned in a physiological Ringer solution at 37°C. The scans revealed that we could visualize both parietal and chief cells and to distinguish them via their unique apical topography. The parietal cells showed a variety of small canaliculi that were dispersed along the apical axis of the cell. Scans of chief cells revealed an apical surface that was covered with microvilli along the entire apical margin. The results of these studies show that it is indeed feasible to image living gastric glands at 37°C and to observe the surface topology of both the parietal and chief cell.