Migration and turnover of entero-endocrine and caveolated cells in the epithelium of the descending colon, as shown by radioautography after continuous infusion of 3H-thymidine into mice

Am J Anat. 1979 Dec;156(4):431-51. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001560403.


Adult male mice were given a continuous infusion of about 0.5 muCi of 3H-thymidine per gram body weight per day for periods varying from 1 to 60 days. Semithin sections of descending colon were cut from/plastic-embedded blocks and stained by a method combining silver impregnation and iron hematoxylin, by which argentaffin entero-endocrine cells and caveolated cells could be identified. From radioautographs, the labeling index of these cells was determined. One to three days after the beginning of 3H-thymidine infusion, label is observed in some of the stained entero-endocrine cells in the bottom of the crypts; the apices of these cells reach the crypt lumen and are joined to neighboring cells by terminal bars (junctional complexes). After five to seven days, labeled entero-endocrine cells are seen on the sides of the crypts, where their base stretches along the basement membrane and their apex has lost its terminal bar connections to neighboring cells. Finally, by 13 and 24 days, labeled cells are observed within the epithelium at the mucosal surface. The turnover time, which is taken to be equal to the mean time required for migration from site of origin to site of loss on the mucosal surface, has been estimated at 23.3 days. This is much longer than the 4.6 days required by the two main cell types of the epithelium -- vacuolated-columnar and mucous cells -- to travel the same route. It is likely that, after entero-endocrine cells lose their terminal bar attachment to other epithelial cells, they migrate independently and very slowly. Labeled caveolated cells are first seen in the crypt bottom one day after the beginning of 3H-thymidine infusion. By three to five days, they are on the sides of the crypts; their base is stretched along the basement membrane, but their apex retains its attachment to neighboring cells by terminal bars. By seven days, labeled caveolated cells are on the mucosal surface. Their turnover time has been assessed at 8.2 days. This is, again, longer than for the two main types to which they are bound by terminal bars throughout migration. The discrepancy is explained by the caveolated cells arising deeper in the crypts than most vacuolated-columnar and mucous cells.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoradiography
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure
  • Colon / ultrastructure*
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Intestinal Mucosa / ultrastructure*
  • Male
  • Mice / anatomy & histology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Thymidine
  • Tritium


  • Tritium
  • Thymidine