Partitioning of paracellular conductance along the ileal crypt-villus axis: a hypothesis based on structural analysis with detailed consideration of tight junction structure-function relationships

J Membr Biol. 1984;80(1):59-70. doi: 10.1007/BF01868690.


Current models of intestinal transport suggest cells which absorb ions are located on the villus while secretory cells are located in the crypt and putatively have paracellular pathways which are highly conductive to Na+. One approach to assess possible variation in small intestinal paracellular conductance along the crypt-villus axis is to morphometrically analyze the structural aspects of crypt and villus tight junctions (TJs) which relate to paracellular resistance. Such detailed analysis of junctional structure in this heterogeneous epithelium would permit one to compare intestinal TJ structure-function relationships with those in a structurally simpler epithelium such as that of toad urinary bladder. This comparison would also be of considerable interest since previous similar comparisons have failed to consider in detail the geometric dissimilarity between these two epithelia. We applied light, electron microscopic, and freeze-fracture morphometric techniques to guinea pig ileal mucosa to quantitatively assess, for both crypts and villi, linear TJ density, relative surface contributions, and TJ strand counts. Mean linear TJ densities were 76.8 m/cm2 for crypt cells and 21.8 m/cm2 for villus absorptive cells. Mean TJ strand counts were 4.45 for undifferentiated crypt cell TJs and 6.03 for villus absorptive cell TJs. The villus constituted 87% and the crypt 13% of total surface. We utilized these data to predict paracellular conductance of crypts vs. villi based on equations derived from those of Claude (P. Claude, J. Membrane Biol. 39:219-232, 1978). Such analysis predicts that 73% of ileal paracellular conductance is attributable to the crypt. Furthermore, we obtained literature values for paracellular resistance in mammalian ileum and toad urinary bladder and for toad bladder TJ structure and linear density and constructed a relationship which would allow us to more accurately compare TJ structure-function correlates between these two epithelia. Such a comparison, which considers both surface amplification and TJ structure and distribution in these epithelia, shows that one would predict in vitro measured values for paracellular resistance should be approximately two orders of magnitude less in mammalian ileum than in toad urinary bladder. This predicted discrepancy (115-fold) correlates well with the observed difference (100-fold).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bufonidae
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Freeze Fracturing
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Ileum / cytology
  • Ileum / physiology*
  • Ileum / ultrastructure
  • Intercellular Junctions / physiology*
  • Intercellular Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Mathematics
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microvilli / physiology*
  • Microvilli / ultrastructure
  • Models, Biological
  • Urinary Bladder / physiology