Scanning Electron Microscopy


Maintenance of tear film in normal conditions is dependent on 1) mucus layer integrity and 2) the presence and distribution of conjunctival epithelial cell microvilli.

In the present work a new methodology has been developed to gain correlative information about microprojection assessment and mucus composition, from the same specimen, by Light Microscopy (LM), Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM).

We have characterized the glycosidic residues secreted by goblet cells in normal human conjunctiva, by means of four lectins (WGA, ConA, PNA and SBA), conjugated with FITC for LM and with colloidal gold for TEM and SEM.

The cytochemical reactions were performed on histological sections of paraffin-embedded material and on semithin and ultrathin sections of both Epon embedded material directly processed for TEM and of blocks recovered from SEM and reprocessed for TEM.

WGA, ConA, PNA and SBA receptors were found to be constituents of the mucus produced by goblet cells in human conjunctiva. The granules of the so-called "second mucus system" (SMS) cells were labelled mainly by WGA. A difference in the quality of glycoconjugates between goblet cells and SMS cells has been also demonstrated.

Our results provide an improved method to evaluate alterations of tear film that occur in many conjunctival diseases.

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