The crypt cycle. Crypt and villus production in the adult intestinal epithelium

Biophys J. 1987 Aug;52(2):279-94. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(87)83215-0.


We propose a model for the growth of individual crypts that is able to account for the observed changes in the number of cells in crypts under normal conditions, after irradiation, and after 30% resection. Parameter values for this model are estimated both for mouse and man, and detailed predictions of crypt growth rates are made. This model does not predict a steady-state crypt size; rather it suggests that crypts grow until they bifurcate. We therefore propose a crypt cycle (analogous to the cell cycle) and present evidence that most if not all crypts in the adult mouse are cycling asynchronously and independently. This evidence consists of four experiments that indicate that branching crypts are randomly distributed over the intestinal epithelium, that the plane of bifurcation of branching crypts is randomly oriented with respect to the villus base, and that the size distribution of crypts is consistent with an expanding crypt population. We also report for the first time evidence of villus production in the adult mouse intestinal epithelium. We conclude that the crypt and villus populations in the adult mouse are not in a steady state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Colon, Sigmoid / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Jejunum / cytology*
  • Jejunum / surgery
  • Mathematics
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological*
  • Regeneration