To study midgut degradation and programmed cell death, we performed methyl green-pyronin staining and Giemsa staining of the midgut of silkworms during metamorphosis. Midgut epithelial cells underwent pyknosis and cytoplasmic shrinkage on the second day of spinning. In the prepupal stage, all midgut epithelial cells desquamated into the midgut lumen, rapidly forming apoptotic bodies. The number of apoptotic bodies in the midgut decreased rapidly from the prepupal stage to the third day of the pupal stage. DNA fragmentation at the time of apoptotic body formation was confirmed by the comet assay. In the midgut lumen from the prepupal stage to the first through third days of the pupal stage in which apoptotic bodies were observed, granular cells were present. Their morphology was similar to that in the body fluid and, during the pupal stage, intracellular granules increased in size and number with time, giving the appearance of a foamy cell. In this stage, numerous granular cells were observed under the basement membrane of the midgut, and phagocytosed apoptotic bodies were seen within granular cells in the midgut lumen. Granular cells may be actively involved in the clearance of apoptotic bodies from the midgut during larval-pupal ecdysis.
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