Detection and characterization of hemopoietic stem cells in the adult human small intestine

J Immunol. 2006 May 1;176(9):5199-204. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.176.9.5199.


The concept of lymphoid differentiation in the human gastrointestinal tract is controversial but is the focus of this study, which examined adult human small intestinal tissue for the presence of CD34(+)CD45(+) hemopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and lymphoid progenitors. Flow cytometry demonstrated that over 5% of leukocytes (CD45(+) cells) isolated from human gut were HSCs coexpressing CD34, a significantly higher incidence than in matched peripheral blood or control bone marrow. HSCs were detected in cell preparations from both the epithelium and lamina propria of all samples tested and localized to the intestinal villous and crypt regions using immunofluorescence. A high proportion of gut HSCs expressed the activation marker CD45RA, and few expressed c-kit, indicating ongoing differentiation. The vast majority of intestinal HSCs coexpressed the T cell Ag, CD7 (92% in the epithelium, 80% in the lamina propria) whereas <10% coexpressed the myeloid Ag CD33, suggesting that gut HSCs are a relatively mature population committed to the lymphoid lineage. Interestingly, almost 50% of epithelial layer HSCs coexpressed CD56, the NK cell Ag, compared with only 10% of the lamina propria HSC population, suggesting that the epithelium may be a preferential site of NKR(+) lymphoid differentiation. In contrast, bone marrow HSCs displayed low coexpression of CD56 and CD7 but high coexpression of CD33. The phenotype of intestinal HSCs, which differs significantly from circulating or bone marrow HSCs, is consistent with a role in local lymphoid development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antigen Presentation / immunology
  • Antigens / immunology
  • Antigens / metabolism
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Female
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / immunology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intestine, Small / cytology*
  • Intestine, Small / immunology
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Time Factors


  • Antigens