Fine structure and histochemistry of the venom gland in the Indian stinging catfish (Heteropneustes fossilis)



The venom glands of Heteropneustes lie deep in the epidermis at the sides of the pectoral fin spines, and consist of large cells that react positively to histochemical tests for proteins, histidine and tyrosine, negatively to periodic acid-Schiff and for serotonin and bombesin. The venom cells are of two types, appearing to have dense or lucent cytoplasm when seen by electron microscopy. The dense type has the better developed Golgi systems, the lucent type has more ribosomes. Both appear to differentiate from the basal layer of the epidermis. The epidermis over the glands has a zone with relatively few desmosomes and enlarged intercellular spaces. Both staining reactions and fine structure differentiate the venom gland cells from the club cells of the epidermis, to such an extent that they must be considered distinct secretory elements.