Normal structure, function, and histology of mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue

Toxicol Pathol. 2006;34(5):599-608. doi: 10.1080/01926230600865531.


The mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) initiates immune responses to specific antigens encountered along all mucosal surfaces. MALT inductive sites are secondary immune tissues where antigen sampling occurs and immune responses are initiated. Effector sites, present as diffuse lymphoid tissue along all mucosal surfaces are the sites of IgA transport across the mucosal epithelium. Though there are many differences between inductive sites in various organs, they all contain the same basic compartments-follicles, interfollicular regions, subepithelial dome regions, and follicle-associated epithelium. The morphologic differences between MALT and other secondary lymphoid tissues, between the MALT sites of differing anatomic locations, and species differences among laboratory animals are described. The morphologic changes in MALT associated with aging, route of nutrition, and genetic mutation (i.e., the nude and SCID mutations) are also discussed. MALT tissues comprise the mucosal immune system which can function independently of the systemic immune system and are, therefore, an important and often overlooked aspect of immunopathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Immunity, Mucosal*
  • Lymphoid Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Lymphoid Tissue / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mucous Membrane / immunology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Nude