Anatomia, histologia, embryologia

Heart pigmentation in the gray bichir, Polypterus senegalus (Actinopterygii: Polypteriformes).

PMID 25376703


The occurrence of pigment cells in the heart is well documented in amphibians, birds and mammals. By contrast, information on heart pigmentation in fish is extremely sparse. The aim is to report the presence of pigment cells over the entire surface of the heart in the gray bichir, Polypterus senegalus. The sample consisted of 12 hearts, which, after gross anatomical examination, were studied using histochemical and immunohistochemical techniques for light microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. The pigment cells were located in the subepicardium, showing a regular distribution pattern across the whole heart, except for the anterior end of the outflow tract, where the pigmentation was much more intense. The cells contained dark, ovoid-shaped organelles which was consistent with a melanosome cell identity. As in other vertebrates, the physiological role of the pigment cells in the heart of the gray bichir is unknown. The absence of such cells in hearts of other polypteriforms suggests that cells containing melanin are not essential for normal fish heart function. Basing on literature data concerning tetrapods, it can be inferred that the pigment cells of the heart of the gray bichir derive from the neural crest. If this were true, our findings would provide the first evidence for the presence of neural crest-derived cells in the subepicardium of adult hearts of early actinopterygians.