Regenerative cells and the architecture of beetle midgut epithelia

James B. Nardi, Charles Mark Bee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The architectural ground plan of beetle and other insect midguts is represented by a monolayer of epithelial cells arranged in a cylindrical configuration. Proliferation and differentiation of regenerative cells maintain the integrity of this monolayer in the face of continual losses of individual cells through cytoplasmic budding and/or expulsion of entire epithelial cells. Peritrophic membranes have conventionally been considered universal features of insect midguts that function to protect vulnerable microvillar surfaces of the midgut epithelium from abrasion by ingested food; however, peritrophic membranes were found in only a small fraction of the adult beetle species examined in this study. In adult beetles, midgut epithelial cells are continually replaced by cells recruited from populations of mitotic regenerative cells that are interspersed among the differentiated epithelial monolayer. To remain contiguous with the other cells in the midgut monolayer, some of these proliferating populations have adopted evaginated configurations of cells that extend for varying distances from the basal surface of the monolayer. These configurations are referred to as regenerative crypts or pouches and consist of progenitor cells and stem cells. The presence, the relative densities, and the relative lengths of these regenerative pouches vary considerably among families of beetles. Placement of longitudinal muscles of the midgut relative to the proximodistal axes of these regenerative pouches also varies among species of beetles. The presence, the size, and the density of regenerative cell populations are related to 1) feeding habits of adult beetles, 2) presence of peritrophic membranes, and 3) expulsion of entire midgut epithelial cells or fragments of these epithelial cells into midgut lumens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1010-1020
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Beetle
  • Degeneration
  • Midgut epithelium
  • Progenitor cells
  • Regenerative cells
  • Stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology


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