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Microsc Res Tech. 2000 May 15;49(4):353-62.

Epithelial cell polarity as reflected in enterocytes.

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Laboratoire de biologie et de biochimie de la nutrition, URA 1820, Faculté des Sciences de Saint Jérôme, Case 342, 13397, Marseille Cedex 20, France.


Absorptive cells are the main cells present in the intestinal epithelium. The plasma membrane of these tall columnar cells reflects their high degree of polarization, by dividing into apical and basolateral domains with different compositions. The most characteristic structure of these cells consists of closely packed apical microvilli with the same height, looking like a brush, which is why they were named the brush border. The concentrated pattern of some apical markers observed in a restricted brush border domain shows that mature enterocytes are hyperpolarized epithelial cells: the filamentous brush border glycocalyx is anchored at the top of the microvilli and the annexin XIII is concentrated in the lower three fourths. Many studies have been carried out on the biosynthesis and intracellular pathway of domain markers. The results show clearly that the basolateral markers take a direct pathway from the trans-Golgi network to the basolateral membrane. However, the two apical pathways, one direct and one indirect pathway via the basolateral membrane, are used, depending on the apical protein involved. Efficient protein sorting and addressing are essential to the establishment and maintenance of cell polarity, on which the integrity of the epithelial barrier depends.

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