This study correlates the fine structure of mouse gastric endocrine cells with their ability to synthesize serotonin (5-HT) from 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). Mice were sacrificed 2 hr after the intravenous injection of 5-HTP-3H or 5-HT-3H. Their stomachs were processed for light- and electron microscope radioautography in a manner which retained labeled 5-HT while washing out other labeled substances. Stomachs from additional mice were incubated in vitro with 5-HT-3H and processed similarly.
All morphologic types of mouse gastric endocrine cells exhibited a similar facility to incorporate exogenous 5-HTP and to convert it to 5-HT which was bound intracellularly. Differences in densities of silver grains observed over endocrine cells suggested that individual endocrine cells indeed varied in their ability to synthesize and/or to bind 5-HT; such variations, however, were not reflected by differences in fine structure, with the exception that endocrine cells with few granules always contained little newly synthesized 5-HT. The newly synthesized 5-HT was associated with the intracellular granules. The gastric endocrine cells were not labeled by exogenous 5-HT-3H, whereas mast cells were labeled by either 5-HT-3H or 5-HTP-3H administration. The findings of the present study support the position that the gastric endocrine cells represent a single cell type, at least in respect to serotonin metabolism—that the argyrophil or argentaffin reactivity of these cells merely reflects their amine content at a given time.