Life and Medical Sciences
Cell & Developmental Biology
Wiley InterScience Backfile Collection 1832-2000
The mucous cell population of duodenum, jejunum and ileum was investigated in the light and electron microscopes with the help of radioautography in mice sacrificed at various times after single injection or continuous infusion of 3H-thymidine.Mucous cells are characterized by globules of mucus and by dilated cisternae of rough endoplasmic reticulum. Two subgroups of mucous cells, one called common and the other granular, may be identified. The granular mucous cells differ from the common ones by the presence of small dense granules embedded within the mucous globules. Each subgroup is further divided into immature oligomucous cells containing few mucous globules, and mature goblet cells with a large accumulation of mucous globules.Common and granular oligomucous cells are found exclusively in the crypt, mainly within the lower mid-crypt, whereas the corresponding two types of goblet cells are present in the upper part of the crypts and in the lower part of the villi. Only common mucous cells are observed in the upper part of the villi.The two types of oligomucous cells, but not goblet cells, have the ability to take up 3H-thymidine and divide. Electron microscopic radioautography demonstrates that, as oligomucous cells migrate upwards, they transform into goblet cells. The latter then migrate to the villus epithelium.In the case of granular mucous cells, this migration is associated with a gradual loss of the characteristic dense granules, so that the granular goblet cells reaching the upper part of the villi become common goblet cells. The goblet cells in the villus epithelium, regardless of their origin, ascend towards the villus tips where they are lost through the extrusion zones.The turnover time of common mucous cells is about three days, as for columnar cells; and that of granular mucous cells, somewhat shorter. In both cases, the divisions of oligomucous cells account only for the production of about half the mucous cells present. Hence, the other half must be derived from precursors other than oligomucous cells. Since a few crypt-base columnar cells contain the odd mucous globule, they are suspected of being the precursors of the two types of oligomucous cells and, through them, of the entire mucous cell population.