Scanning Microscopy


The microvasculature of the rat lung was studied by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM) of vascular corrosion casts and tissue sections. Particular emphasis was placed on postcapillary venules, pulmonary venules and small pulmonary veins (small interlobular veins).

Casts of lung capillaries appeared inconspicuous with smooth surface. On the casts of pulmonary venules and small pulmonary veins, by contrast, series of narrow annular constrictions, present at regular distances of 20-25 μm, were seen. These constrictions may be drastic, narrowing down the caliber of the vessel up to 50%. In the constrictions the marks of circularly running tubular structures were seen and were interpreted as being caused by circular bands of smooth muscle cells. Tissue sections of the corresponding vascular wall showed the presence of single or grouped smooth muscle cells which regularly formed myoendothelial junctions. These smooth muscle cells are interpreted as sphincters, responsible for the constrictions seen on cast preparations. Axon terminals were not found in spatial relationship to these sphincters. It is suggested that the described venous sphincters are governed by blood-borne and/or endothelium-derived substances and may significantly influence the blood flow.

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