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Dig Dis Sci. 2001 May;46(5):1095-104.

Peyer's patches epithelium in the rat: a morphological, immunohistochemical, and morphometrical study.

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Department of Experimental Medicine, Human & Clinical Anatomy, State University of L'Aquila, Italy.


The epithelial layer covering lymphoid follicles of Peyer's patches consists of cells with a different surface morphology. Some of these cells have been described as a distinct cytotype, the so-called M cells. In order to resolve the controversy on the specific morphological and biochemical markers of M cells, structural, ultrastructural, and morphometrical study of the epithelium covering the rat Peyer's patches were performed. Peyer's patches from healthy rats were processed for light microscopy, immunohistochemistry, in situ nick-end labeling (TUNEL), and scanning and transmission electron microscopy. A morphometric study was also performed to evaluate microvillus density, length, and number of lysosomes in different areas of the epithelium. Peyer's patches were covered by simple columnar/cubical dome epithelium (DE). Scarce goblet cells and a large number of enterocytes were observed. Ultrastructural observations revealed that the DE showed cells with different morphology. The density and length of microvilli and the lysosome number varied along the whole dome without significant differences. The DE cells characterized by short and disorganized microvilli appeared always in close spatial relationship with lymphocytes. In conclusion, the concept that distinct cell types (enterocytes and M cells) can be identified in the rat DE does not appear to be valid based on morphological criteria. It seems correct to consider that in rat Peyer's patches the presence of scarce goblet cells and a large number of enterocytes showing dynamic morphofunctional modifications is related to the functional state and/or to cell cycle.

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