Cell surface specialization, a characteristic common to most ion-transporting epithelia, was studied in the salt (nasal) gland of the domestic duck in relation to osmotic stress. Three days after hatching, experimental ducklings were given 1% NaCl to drink for 12 hr and freshwater for the remainder of each day. Control ducklings were maintained exclusively on freshwater. The fine structure of the secretory epithelium was examined on various days of the regimen. The nasal gland epithelium of the secretory lobule is composed of several types of cells. Peripheral cells, lying at the blind ends of the branched secretory tubules, are similar in both control and experimental animals at all stages of glandular development. These generative cells contain few mitochondria and have nearly smooth cell surfaces. Partially specialized secretory cells predominate in the secretory tubules of control animals and appear as transitional cells in the tubular epithelium of salt-stressed animals. These cells contain few mitochondria and bear short folds along their lateral cell surfaces. Fully specialized cells dominate the secretory epithelium of osmotically stressed ducklings. The lateral and basal surfaces of these cells are deeply folded, forming complex intra- and extracellular compartments. This vast increase in absorptive surface area is paralleled by an increase in the number of mitochondria that pack the basal compartments. The development of this fully specialized cell is correlated with the marked increase in (Na+-K+)-ATPase activity in the glands of osmotically stressed birds.

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