Background: Lymphoid cells have often been observed in the intestinal lumen and it has been hypothesized that M cells could represent one of the most important migration routes for the immunocompetent cells from the lymphoid follicle to the lumen. However, a direct evidence of the passage was lacking. In this study we describe a morphological analysis of the lymphocyte traffic in rabbit Peyer's patches after an in vivo stimulation with an antigen normally not present in the intestine.
Methods: The antigenic stimulation of a large number of Peyer's patches was carried out using the isolated ileal loop technique and then the samples from stimulated and control Peyer's patches were analysed by light and transmission electron microscopy.
Results: We have been able to describe details of lymphocyte migration through M cells, from the follicle to the intestinal lumen, and a marked increase of intraluminal lymphocytes by counting the immunocompetent cells after periods of antigenic stimulation of varying lengths.
Conclusions: Our finding is that the passage of lymphocytes to the lumen is an antigen-dependent event and we also provide direct evidence that M cells are one of the migration routes. Our observations also indicate that lymphoid cells in the intestinal lumen may play an immunologic role in mucosal immunity.