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Gastroenterology. 1993 Oct;105(4):1089-97.

A novel mechanism for disposing of effete epithelial cells in the small intestine of guinea pigs.

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Department of Anatomy, Niigata University School of Medicine, Japan.



We previously showed that at the villus tips in the small intestine of guinea pigs effete enterocytes are not simply exfoliated into the lumen but phagocytosed by subepithelial macrophages, leaving only a thin apical cell portion in the epithelial lining. The aim of the present study is to investigate the fate of these apical pieces of enterocytes.


The ileum of guinea pigs was perfusion-fixed and processed for transmission and scanning electron microscopic observation.


The apical cytoplasmic plates were found to be pushed by neighboring enterocytes and protruded from the epithelial surface, finally being pinched off into the lumen. In this process observed at the villus tips, the junctional complexes between the apical cytoplasmic plate and the adjacent enterocytes were preserved until the pinching-off of the plate. Luminal cell elements revealed a rich existence of cup-shaped or spherical cell fragments covered with microvilli; nuclei were never observed in the luminal fragments.


The findings in the small intestine of the guinea pig are the first to account for the mechanism of the epithelial barriers being preserved while apoptotic enterocytes drop out at the tips of the villi.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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