Objective: Increasing evidence indicates that different neuropeptide-containing nerve elements are involved in the immune system and influence the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. The aim of this study was to investigate the morphological localization and distribution of the different immunoreactive (IR) nerve fibers and immunocompetent cells in the oral mucosa (e.g. tongue, gingiva) and compare the results with data received from streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats. Materials and Methods: The different nerve elements and immunocytes were detected by ABC immunohistochemistry. Results: The IR nerve fibers were found in the tunica propria of oral mucosa with different densities. These IR nerve fibers were mainly located beneath the epithelial lining, around the blood vessels and glands, and some of them were also located in the taste buds. After 2 weeks of STZ treatment the total number of IR nerve fibers, especially the SP and neuropeptide Y (NPY) IR ones, was significantly increased (p < 0.05), as was also the number of immunocytes (lymphocytes, plasma cells, mast cells). Some of these cells also showed immunoreactivity for substance P (SP) and NPY. In several cases the SP IR nerve fibers were found in close proximity to the immunocytes. Electron microscopic investigation also revealed the close association between the IR nerve fibers and immunocompetent cells where the gap was 1 μm or even less. Conclusions: The close anatomical associations suggest communication between nerve fibers and immune cells which can be crucial for maintaining mucosal homeostasis and for ensuring an appropriate response to injury.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems