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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2000 Jun 30;75(1-2):27-42.

Characterization of the diffuse mucosal associated lymphoid tissue of feline small intestine.

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Istituto di Anatomia Patologica Veterinaria e Patologia Aviare, Facoltaí di Medicina Veterinaria, Via Celoria n. 10, 20133, Milan, Italy.


Characterization of the feline intestinal mucosal associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) will facilitate investigation of intestinal disease in the cat and promote the cat as an animal model for a range of human diseases which involve the intestinal lymphoid tissue. This includes inflammatory bowel disease, viral and non-viral associated intestinal lymphomas and immunodeficiency associated syndromes. Morphologic and phenotypic characterization of the normal small intestinal diffuse MALT in 22 SPF cats was performed using flow cytometry and cytology on isolated intestinal leukocytes from the intra-epithelial and lamina proprial compartments, as well as immunohistology on tissues from the feline duodenum, jejunum and ileum. The intra-epithelial compartment (IEC) was dominated by lymphocytes (>85%) which frequently contained intracytoplasmic granules. The most striking findings in the IEC were the elevated percentages of CD8 alpha+ lymphocytes (40%), presumed to express CD8 alpha alpha chains, and CD4-/CD8- (double negative) lymphocytes (44%), and the consistent presence of a minor subpopulation of CD3+/CD11d+ IELs (6%). Small percentages of CD4+ lymphocytes (10%) were observed such that the IEL CD4:CD8 ratio (0.25) was low. The LPC also contained a majority of T cells and few plasma cells. However, this compartment had reduced percentages of CD8 alpha+ lymphocytes (28%) and increased percentages of CD4+ lymphocytes (27%) relative to the IEC. However, the LPL CD4:CD8 ratio (1.0) remained low compared with the ratio in peripheral blood. In feline MALT, MHC class II expression was lower than in other peripheral lymphoid compartments. The results of this study provide important reference values for future investigations involving feline intestinal lymphocytes and demonstrates that the leukocyte distribution and phenotypic characteristics of the feline diffuse MALT appear largely similar to the murine, rat and human counterparts.

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