, Volume 273, Issue 1, pp 127-136

Identification of M cells and their distribution in rabbit intestinal Peyer's patches and appendix

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The distribution of intestinal membranous (M) cells has been studied within the follicle-associated epithelium of rabbit Peyer's patches and appendix. Vimentin expression has been assessed as a primary criterion to identify rabbit M cells in tissue sections and in whole tissue preparations. This criterion has been compared to the use of the absence of alkaline phosphatase which, due to its heterogeneous distribution within the enterocyte population, is less reliable than vimentin expression as a marker for rabbit M cells. The pattern of vimentin immunostaining revealed that the majority of M cells are located in the periphery of the follicle-associated epithelium, the dome apex being largely free of M cells. This distribution was confirmed by scanning electron microscopy. Vimentin is also expressed by follicle-associated epithelial cells in the vicinity of crypts which lack the typical lymphocyte-containing pocket of M cells. Cytoplasmic peanut agglutinin binding coincides with vimentin-expression throughout the follicle-associated epithelium but is absent from vimentin-negative enterocytes. The co-localisation of these two phenotypic markers in both M cells and epithelial cells adjacent to crypts, which lack the typical morphology of fully developed rabbit M cells, suggests that they correspond to immature M cells which by their location appear to derive directly from undifferentiated crypt stem cells and not from mature columnar enterocytes.