The enigmatic rodlet cells (RCs) are characterized by conspicuous inclusions named "rodlets". They were discovered over 100 years ago and were considered as parasites but shortly afterward interpreted as endogenous cells. The RCs have been described in different tissues of marine and freshwater teleosts, but their origin and function remain unknown. This work was designed to an ultrastructural study on RCs development and distribution in intestinal epithelium of Dicentrarchus labrax. Three different stages of RCs development from early precursor cells to mature phase were observed, as well as a migration and finally an extrusion of their contents. In this study, the immature cells were found near the basal epithelium membrane. They were mainly identified by a rough endoplasmic reticulum with dilated cisternae, by developing rodlets and a thin fibrillar coat. The maturing RCs, localized in the middle zone of the epithelium, appeared to be undergoing a reorganization of the cell organelles. The mature RCs, placed near the free surface, showed a thick subplasmalemmar fibrillar coat. Most of the organelles were aggregated at the cell apex with a basally located nucleus. A cellular polarity was more evident. One of the most conspicuous features was the occurrence of mature rodlets club-sac in shape orientated toward the cell apex. Adhesive junctions between surface epithelial cells and RCs, while discharging their contents, were seen. We have connected morphological figures and distribution to different stages of development in RCs, supporting the hypothesis of their secretory function.
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