Histology and ultrastructure of the salivary glands in Bulla striata (Mollusca, Opisthobranchia)


  • Alexandre Lobo-da-Cunha,

    1. Laboratory of Cell Biology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences Abel Salazar (ICBAS), University of Porto and Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR), Porto, Portugal
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Gonçalo Calado

    1. Lusophone University of Humanities and Technologies, Lisbon, Portugal
    2. Centre for Ecological Modeling IMAR, FCT/UNL, Monte da Caparica, Portugal
    Search for more papers by this author


Abstract. The ribbon-shaped salivary glands in Bulla striata were studied with light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Secretion is produced in tubules formed by two types of secretory cells, namely granular mucocytes and vacuolated cells, intercalated with ciliated cells. A central longitudinal duct lined by the same cell types collects the secretion and conducts it to the buccal cavity. In granular mucocytes, the nucleus is usually central and the secretory vesicles contain oval-shaped granular masses attached to the vesicle membrane. Glycogen granules can be very abundant, filling the space around the secretory vesicles. These cells are strongly stained by PAS reaction for polysaccharides. Their secretory vesicles are also stained by Alcian blue, revealing acidic mucopolysaccharides, and the tetrazonium reaction detects proteins in minute spots at the edge of the vesicles, corresponding to the granular masses observed in TEM. Colloidal iron staining for acidic mucopolysaccharides in TEM reveals iron particles in the electron-lucent region of the vesicles, while the granular masses are free of particles. In vacuolated cells, which are thinner and less abundant than the granular mucocytes, the nucleus is basal and the cytoplasm contains large electron-lucent vesicles. These vesicles are very weakly colored by light microscopy techniques, but colloidal iron particles could be observed within them. The golf tee-shaped ciliated cells contain some electron-dense lysosomes in the apical region. In these cells, the elongated nucleus is subapically located, and bundles of microfibrils are common in the slender cytoplasmic stalk that reaches the basal lamina. The morphological, histochemical, and cytochemical data showed some similarities between salivary glands in B. striata and Aplysia depilans. These similarities could reflect the phylogenetic relationship between cephalaspidean and anaspidean opisthobranchs or result from a convergent adaptation to an identical herbivorous diet.