Endocrine cells of gastric and gut mucosa are commonly thought to be present only within mucosal glands. In a previous report, we described argyrophilic cells in the lamina propria in 40% of surgical gastric specimens, using light microscopy. All these patients had chronic gastritis. Argyrophilia, however, is a non-specific reaction which could occur in other than endocrine cells. The present study was undertaken to describe the ultrastructure of argyrophil cells in the lamina propria. In five patients with chronic gastritis, endoscopic biopsies were taken from the fundic, intermediate, and pyloric areas of the stomach. Single and/or clustered argyophil cells were seen by light microscopy in the lamina propria of the intermediate and pyloric areas. On electron-microscopy, these cells had the following characteristics of endocrine-like cells: they were characterised by numerous electron dense granules in the cytoplasm, 100-300 nm in diameter; the cytoplasm contained poorly-developed rough endoplasmic reticulum and well-developed smooth endoplasmic reticulum with occasional vesicles. Immunostaining gave negative results for various gastrointestinal hormones. These ultrastructural characteristics of lamina propria cells are similar to endocrine cells of the APUD series. We conclude that endocrine-like cells occur in the lamina propria of the human stomach in the presence of chronic gastritis.
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