Immunocytochemical Localization of Histatins in Human Salivary Glands

Mansur Ahmad, Marco Piludu, Frank G. Oppenheim, Eva J. Helmerhorst, Arthur R. Hand

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35 Scopus citations


Histatins are a family of salivary proteins with bactericidal and fungicidal activities that contribute to the innate defense of the oral cavity. Histatins are present in the serous granules of the parotid and submandibular glands. The important role of histatins in saliva, and the limited information on their cellular and subcellular distribution, prompted us to further define the localization of histatins in the major salivary glands. Immunogold-silver staining of 1-μm sections of plastic-embedded tissue with anti-histatin antibody revealed histatin immunoreactivity in the serous acinar cells of the parotid and submandibular glands, the serous demilune cells of the submandibular and sublingual glands, and in occasional intercalated duct cells. No reactivity was seen in mucous cells or in striated or excretory duct cells. Electron microscopic observations of thin sections labeled with anti-histatin and gold-labeled secondary antibodies revealed immunoreactivity associated with the rough endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi complex and in secretory granules of serous acinar and demilune cells. The granules of parotid acinar cells exhibited relatively uniform labeling of their content, whereas the granules of serous cells in the submandibular and sublingual glands showed variable labeling of the dense and light regions of their content. A few intercalated duct cells adjacent to the acinar cells also exhibited labeled granules. These results suggest that the serous cells of the major glands are the main source of histatins in human saliva. They are also consistent with several previous studies demonstrating the variable distribution of different proteins within the granule content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)361-370
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004


  • Antimicrobial proteins
  • Electron microscopy
  • Intercalated ducts
  • Parotid gland
  • Secretory granules
  • Serous cells
  • Sublingual gland
  • Submandibular gland


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