Topography of short portal vessels in the rat pituitary gland: a scanning electron-microscopic and morphometric study of corrosion cast replicas
Abstract We applied scanning electron microscopy combined with imaging and morphometric techniques to analyze the dorsal topography and morphology of short portal vessels linking the capillary beds of the pituitary neural and anterior lobes in adult male albino rats. The pituitary microvasculature was replicated by intracarotid injection of Batson's No. 17 compound producing plastic casts that were advantageous for comprehensive morphometric analyses using an imaging device. The analysis revealed the existence of two types of portal vessels having quantitatively different morphological properties. The bilateral venular plexus of 3–4 vessels located at the base of the infundibular stalk (each venule measuring 300 μm in length and 32 μm in diameter) appears to be the major part of the short portal system in the dorsum of the rat pituitary gland. Narrower capillary-like shunt vessels (6.8 μm in diameter), of about the same length as the venules, were situated throughout other subregions of the intermediate lobe cleft. The short portal vessels of both types made direct anastomoses with the capillary networks in the neural and anterior lobes. The neural lobe capillaries were twice as numerous (1324 per mm 2 ), and only half as wide (6.2 μm), as the sinusoidal capillaries in the anterior lobe (density of 637 per mm 2 ; diameter of 13.7 μm). The topographical position of the portal venular system suggests that the caudolateral subregions of the pituitary neural and anterior lobes have a functional relationship dependent on rapid interlobe transfer of neurohumoral factors such as hormones via the portal blood. This process appears to be supplemented throughout the rest of the cleft between the two lobes by a small number of capillary shunts that supply the epithelial cell lobules of the intermediate lobe in situ. The findings collectively indicate that this portal system provides a constant stream of neurohumoral information that is shared moment-by-moment between the pituitary neural and anterior lobes.
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