Up-regulation of microsphere transport across the follicle-associated epithelium of Peyer's patch by exposure to Streptococcus pneumoniae R36a

FASEB J. 1999 Apr;13(6):611-9. doi: 10.1096/fasebj.13.6.611.


Transport of antigens through the follicle-associated epithelium (FAE) of Peyer's patch (PP) is the critical first step in the induction of mucosal immune responses. We have previously described that short-term exposure to Streptococcus pneumoniae R36a induced dramatic morphological alterations of the FAE in rabbit PP. These results prompted us to investigate whether the pneumococci-induced modifications were accompanied by enhanced ability of the FAE to transport antigens. We addressed this problem by evaluating the ability of the FAE to bind, internalize, and transport fluorescent polystyrene microparticles, highly specific to rabbit M cells, after exposure to S. pneumoniae. Quantitative study revealed a marked increase in the number of microspheres in PP tissues exposed to S. pneumoniae compared to tissues exposed to either phosphate-buffered saline or Escherichia coli DH5alpha as controls. No sign of bacterially induced damage to the epithelial barrier was observed. Further confocal microscopy analysis of the FAE surface showed that a significant increase in the number of cells that showed both morphological and functional features of M cells took place within pneumococci-treated PP tissues. These data provide the first direct evidence that the FAE-specific antigen sampling function may be manipulated to improve antigen and drug delivery to the intestinal immune system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Bacterial / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Ileum / physiology*
  • Ileum / ultrastructure
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / ultrastructure
  • Microspheres
  • Peyer's Patches / physiology*
  • Peyer's Patches / ultrastructure
  • Rabbits
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation


  • Antigens, Bacterial