Cytochemical analysis of alkaline phosphatase and esterase activities and of lectin-binding and anionic sites in rat and mouse Peyer's patch M cells

Am J Anat. 1983 Oct;168(2):199-212. doi: 10.1002/aja.1001680207.


M cells in Peyer's patch follicle epithelium endocytose and transport luminal materials to intraepithelial lymphocytes. We examined (1) enzymatic characteristics of the epithelium covering mouse and rat Peyer's patches by using cytochemical techniques, (2) distribution of lectin-binding sites by peroxidase-labeled lectins, and (3) anionic site distribution by using cationized ferritin to develop a profile of M cell surface properties. Alkaline phosphatase activity resulted in deposits of dense reaction product over follicle surfaces but was markedly reduced over M cells, unlike esterase which formed equivalent or greater product over M cells. Concanavalin A, ricinus communis agglutinin, wheat germ agglutinin and peanut agglutinin reacted equally with M cells and with surrounding enterocytes over follicle surfaces. Cationized ferritin distributed in a random fashion along microvillus membranes of both M cells and enterocytes, indicating equivalent anionic site distribution. Staining for alkaline phosphatase activity provides a new approach for distinguishing M cells from enterocytes at the light microscopic level. Identical binding of lectins indicates that M cells and enterocytes share common glycoconjugates even though molecular groupings may differ. Lectin binding and anionic charge similarities of M cells and enterocytes may facilitate antigen sampling by M cells of particles and compounds that adhere to intestinal surfaces in non-Peyer's patch areas.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acid Phosphatase / analysis*
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / analysis*
  • Animals
  • Anions / metabolism*
  • Binding Sites
  • Carboxylesterase
  • Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases / analysis*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Lectins / metabolism*
  • Lymphoid Tissue / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Peyer's Patches / cytology
  • Peyer's Patches / metabolism*
  • Peyer's Patches / ultrastructure


  • Anions
  • Lectins
  • Carboxylic Ester Hydrolases
  • Carboxylesterase
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Acid Phosphatase