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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1980 Jul;65(1):53-62.

Tight junctions in epithelial cells of human fetal hindgut, normal colon, and colon adenocarcinoma.


The structural patterns of tight junctions in normal human colon mucosa, colon adenocarcinomas, and fetal colon were studied and compared by the freeze-fracturing technique. The zonula occludens of the normal colon cells at the upper, more differentiated part of the crypts of Lieberk├╝hn appeared as continuous belts made of about eight parallel strands. At the less differentiated bases of the crypts, the zonula occludens was less regular and contained fewer, mostly beaded strands. In the colons of 10-week fetuses, early stages of tight junction assembly were observed. At the same time, vesicles bearing remnants of tight junction elements were observed within the cytoplasm. This finding suggested that during the early development and organization of the fetal gut, mechanisms of assembly and disassembly of tight junctions are operating concomitantly. In well-differentiated adenocarcinomas, the cells in the luminal region retained their polarity and had seven or eight parallel junctional elements. In infiltrating cells, however, tight junctions appeared as fascia occludens and resembled the junctional organization of 10-week fetuses.

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