Ultrastructural and cytoarchitectural features of lymphoreticular organs in the colon and rectum of adult BALB/c mice

Am J Anat. 1991 Jan;190(1):10-8. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001900103.


The structure and function of colonic mucosal lymphoid organs remain largely unexplored, especially in the rectum hidden within the pelvic vault. Two-month-old female BALB/c mice were anesthetized, and the entire colon was removed from cecum to anus. Distal colonic patches were then prepared for electron microscopy or were quick-frozen and sectioned for immunoperoxidase localization of B cells and T cell subsets. Aggregated lymphoid follicles were distributed irregularly along the entire colon with an average of 1.4 patches per centimeter of colon length. There were large collections of follicles opposite the ileocecal valve (cecal patches), variable numbers of patches throughout the colon, and at least one patch within 10 mm of the anus (rectal patch). Follicles were adjacent to branching crypts lined by epithelium infiltrated by lymphoid cells and containing few goblet cells. In electron micrographs, M cells were identified by their short, irregular microvilli; intraepithelial lymphoid cells; reduced lysosomal dense bodies; and an expanded tubulovesicular network. Small germinal centers were seen. Cytoarchitectural components of colonic lymphoid follicles and Peyer's patch follicles were remarkably similar, despite differences in surrounding mucosa and luminal microbial exposure. The presence of organized lymphoid tissue with M cells and germinal centers suggests that transepithelial particle transport and antigen recognition can take place in the rectum. Whether such tissue has the capacity for uptake of luminal microorganisms is of particular interest, not only because colonic follicles may be sites for local initiation of immune responses but also because they may be important entry points for systemic infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • B-Lymphocyte Subsets / ultrastructure
  • Colon / cytology
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Colon / ultrastructure*
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Lymphoid Tissue / cytology
  • Lymphoid Tissue / metabolism
  • Lymphoid Tissue / ultrastructure*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Rectum / cytology
  • Rectum / metabolism
  • Rectum / ultrastructure*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / ultrastructure