The fine structure of the main dorsal and ventral circulatory trunks and of the subneural vessels and capillaries of the ventral nerve cord of the earthworm, Eisenia foetida, has been studied with the electron microscope.
All of these vessels are lined internally by a continuous extracellular basement membrane varying in thickness (0.03 to 1 µ) with the vessel involved. The dorsal, ventral, and subneural vessels display inside this membrane scattered flattened macrophagic or leucocytic cells called amebocytes. These lie against the inner lining of the basement membrane, covering only a small fraction of its surface. They have long, attenuated branching cell processes.
All of these vessels are lined with a continuous layer of unfenestrated endothelial cells displaying myofilaments and hence qualifying for the designation of "myoendothelial cells." The degree of muscular specialization varies over a spectrum, however, ranging from a delicate endowment of thin myofilaments in the capillary myoendothelial cells to highly specialized myoendothelial cells in the main pulsating dorsal blood trunk, which serves as the worm's "heart" or propulsive "aorta." The myoendothelial cells most specialized for contraction display well organized sarcoplasmic reticulum and myofibrils with thick and thin myofilaments resembling those of the earthworm body wall musculature. In the ventral circulatory trunk, circular and longitudinal myofilaments are found in each myoendothelial cell. In the dorsal trunk, the lining myoendothelial cells contain longitudinal myofilaments. Outside these cells are circular muscle cells. The lateral parts of the dorsal vessels have an additional outer longitudinal muscle layer.
The blood plasma inside all of the vessels shows scattered particles representing the circulating earthworm blood pigment, erythrocruorin.