Epithelia1 integrity, cell death and cell loss in mammalian small intestine


  • Terry M. Mayhew
  • R. Myklebust
  • A. Whybrow
  • R. Jenkins


small intestine, enterocytes, extrusion mechanisms, tight junctions, apoptosis, necrosis, intraepithelial lymphocytes, mononuclear phagocytes


In recent years, the different mechanisms of epithelial cell loss which occur in mammalian and avian small intestine have been re-investigated. Information is now available for a variety of mammalian types and mechanisms can be divided into two major classes: [i] those preserving epithelial integrity by maintaining intercellular tight junctions throughout early-to-late stages of cell extrusion; and [ii] those which compromise integrity by introducing breaches in epithelial continuity. Both classes are associated with the activity andtor proximity of non-epithelia1 cells (mainly lymphocytes and mononuclear phagocytes) located in the epithelium or underlying lamina propria. Intraepithelial lymphocytes may be involved in enterocyte targetting and killing whilst lamina propria (LP) macrophages sequester cell debris. Where epithelial integrity is maintained, two types of loss can be identified. In the first (type l), complete cells are extruded into the lumen. In the second (type 2), only anucleate apical cell fragments pass into the lumen . There are two variants of type 2 loss distinguishable by the fate of the nucleated basal portions of cells. One variant (type 2a) creates large intercellular spaces extending from the preserved apical cap to the basal lamina and containing enterocyte debris for phagocytosis. The second (type 2b) involves the gradual shrinkage of individual cells (which become more electron-dense) and in situ degeneration of their nucleated subapical portions in increasingly narrower intercellular spaces between adjacent healthy enterocytes. The mechanism of removal of these fragments is unclear but may be via macrophages or surrounding enterocytes. Apoptosis has been implicated in both type 1 and type 2 extrusion. In contrast, type 3 loss involves morphological changes in enterocytes which are reminiscent of those seen in necrosis and is accompanied by breaks in epithelial continuity following cell swelling, a decrease in cell electron density and total or subtotal degradation of organelles and membranes. It ends in loss of either an abnormal cell apex (with subsequent exposure of the degraded cell contents and their spillage into the lumen) or a complete cell remnant (extruded into the lumen before total disintegration of plasma membranes).




Invited Reviews