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This paper deals with the theory and applications of spatially-variant discrete mathematical morphology. We review and formalize the definition of spatially variant dilation/erosion and opening/closing for binary and gray-level images using exclusively the structuring function, without resorting to complement. This theoretical framework allows to build morphological operators whose structuring elements can locally adapt their shape and orientation across the dominant direction of the structures in the image. The shape and orientation of the structuring element at each pixel are extracted from the image under study: the orientation is given by means of a diffusion process of the average square gradient field, which regularizes and extends the orientation information from the edges of the objects to the homogeneous areas of the image; and the shape of the orientated structuring elements can be linear or it can be given by the distance to relevant edges of the objects. The proposed filters are used on binary and gray-level images for enhancement of anisotropic features such as coherent, flow-like structures. Results of spatially-variant erosions/dilations and openings/closings-based filters prove the validity of this theoretical sound and novel approach.