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Histochem Cell Biol. 2004 Feb;121(2):83-9. Epub 2004 Jan 31.

Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CEA-related cell adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1), apically expressed on human colonic M cells, are potential receptors for microbial adhesion.

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Department of Immunology, Umeå University, 90185 Umeå, Sweden.


In the human gut mucosa, specialized M cells deliver intact foreign macromolecules and commensal bacteria from the lumen to organized mucosal lymphoid tissues triggering immune responses. M cells are also major sites of adhesion and invasion for enteric pathogens. The molecular features of M cell apical surfaces that promote microbial normal attachment are still largely unknown. We have demonstrated previously that in the human colonic epithelium, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CEA-related cell adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1) are integral components of the apical glycocalyx which participate in epithelial-microbial interactions. In this study, based on the reactivity of specific monoclonal antibodies and on immunoelectron microscopy, we show that M cells of human colonic solitary lymphoid follicles express CEA and CEACAM1 on the apical surface. Recently these highly glycosylated molecules have been characterized as protein receptors for different bacteria. This leads us to propose a role for CEA and CEACAM1 in the adherence of enteric bacteria to the apical membrane of colonic M cells. We also hypothesize that, unlike colonic enterocytes, M cells lack the defense mechanism that eliminates CEA and CEACAM1 upon microbial binding and which is based on vesiculation of microvillus plasma membrane.

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