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Anat Rec. 1987 Sep;219(1):69-77.

Structural features of the apical and tubulovesicular membranes of rodent small intestinal tuft cells.

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Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA.


Tuft cells are present in most columnar epithelia derived from endoderm including the small intestine. They are characterized by long, wide apical microvilli and an extensively developed cytoplasmic tubulovesicular system. We examined in detail the structural features of the apical plasma membrane of small intestinal tuft cells from adult guinea pigs, rats, and adult and suckling mice with freeze-fracture and conventional transmission electron microscopy methods and utilized cationized ferritin and horseradish peroxidase as tracers to determine whether tuft cells endocytose macromolecules. The microvillus membrane of intestinal tuft cells has few P-face intramembrane particles, displays little alkaline phosphatase activity, and is highly enriched in cholesterol. Tuft cell tight junctions resemble those of absorptive cells in strand count and strand-to-strand crosslinks but, unlike those of absorptive cells, they display many abluminal free-ending strands. Tuft cells of adult and suckling mouse intestine show no evidence of internalization of cationized ferritin or, in suckling mice, uptake of horseradish peroxidase. We conclude that the microvillus membrane of small intestinal tuft cells is protein-poor but cholesterol-rich and that small intestinal tuft cells do not endocytose macromolecules in bulk from the intestinal lumen.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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