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The Streaming Adrenal Cortex: Direct Evidence Of Centripetal Migration Of Adrenocytes By Estimation Of Cell Turnover Rate

G. Zajicek, I. Ariel, N. Arber

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ABSTRACT Thirty adult male rats were injected with 0·5 μCi [3H]thymidine/g body weight (specific activity 5 Ci/ mmol) and killed, in groups of five, 1 h and 14, 30, 60, 90 and 120 days after injection. The displacement of labelled adrenocytes with time was estimated in autoradiograms of adrenal sections. The radial distance of the labelled cell from the capsule was measured with an eyepiece micrometer and expressed in cell location units, i.e. the number of cells separating the labelled cell from the capsule. One hour after labelling, 95% of labelled cells were confined to the outer quarter of the cortex. During the following days, adrenocytes were displaced inwardly, approaching the medulla at a velocity of 0·24 locations/day. They traversed the three cortex zones, reaching the medulla after 104 days. The three adrenal zones represent three differentiation states of the adrenocyte. When young, the adrenocyte secretes aldosterone, after leaving the glomerulosa it produces corticosteroids and on reaching the reticularis it produces sex hormones. The adrenal cortex is a cell renewal system made of two compartments. A progenitor compartment extending between locations 1 and 15, and a functional compartment, covering locations 16–64. The first compartment produces 0·47 cells daily, which enter the second. Half of them die on their way while the rest are eliminated in the reticular zone. The cell stream is nourished by a subcapsular stem cell. J. Endocr. (1986) 111, 477–482