Particle uptake and translocation across epithelial membranes

J Anat. 1996 Dec;189 ( Pt 3)(Pt 3):487-90.


Oral delivery of drugs and vaccines has many advantages over other routes of administration. For example, for vaccination, enteric delivery may result in the induction of a mucosal immune response against pathogens which colonise and invade the mucosa. However, the oral delivery of peptide or protein drugs or antigens is beset with problems, such as gastrointestinal breakdown of labile molecules, low level of macromolecular absorption and, for vaccines, the poor immune response usually elicited by orally administered soluble antigens. Investigations are therefore in progress to develop means of increasing intestinal absorption and decreasing digestion of orally administered molecules. Molecules can be incorporated into biodegradable microparticles to reduce the effect of gut secretions and to enable the absorption of bioactive agents in an unaltered form. The uptake of microparticulates through the gut wall is accepted as a true biological phenomenon but the mechanism and route of uptake have not been established. Furthermore, in general, only small numbers of microparticles are translocated across epithelial membranes, possibly making these systems inappropriate for drug or vaccine delivery. This paper reviews particle uptake across the gastrointestinal tract and describes studies carried out to determine whether a humoral response can be elicited following oral administration of an antigen associated with biodegradable poly(DL lactide-coglycolide) microparticles. The use of lipid delivery vehicles to enhance microparticle uptake and the selective transport of microspheres across M cells is also described.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation
  • Antigens / administration & dosage*
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Epithelium / physiology
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Microspheres
  • Peyer's Patches / physiology*
  • Vertebrates / physiology*


  • Antigens