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Arch Histol Cytol. 1999 Dec;62(5):471-81.

Porosity of the epithelial basement membrane as an indicator of macrophage-enterocyte interaction in the intestinal mucosa.

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Department of Anatomy, Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, Sapporo, Japan.


The epithelial basement membrane of intestinal villi is perforated with numerous small pores, through which free cells in the lamina propria communicate with the enterocytes. This study was a comparative analysis of the pores in the basement membrane by SEM after removal of the gut epithelium with OsO4 maceration. The porosity as represented by the area fraction of the pores varied along the baso-apical axis of villi in patterns specific for each animal species examined: consistent scantiness along the entire length of villi in mice, acute elevation in the second and third distal one-sixths of villi in rats, and gradual augmentation toward the villus tips in guinea pigs. Size distribution analyses of the pores indicated their heterogeneous enlargement in the regions of elevated porosity. Concomitant observation of lamina propria macrophages by histochemical labelings and by conventional TEM showed that the cells specifically clustered beneath the hyperporous basement membrane, with their thick processes penetrating it. The spatially-regulated patterns of perforation of the epithelial basement membrane indicate phase-specific interventions of lamina propria macrophages in the maturation or aging of enterocytes, which steadily proliferate in crypts and exfoliate at the villus tips.

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