, Volume 165, Issue 3, pp 437-455

A scanning and transmission electron microscopical study of the morphogenesis of human colonic villi

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The morphogenetic events that occur in the development of villi in human foetal colon have been observed by light microscopy and scanning and transmission electron microscopy.

At nine weeks, the colon is a simple tube composed of pseudostratified columnar epithelium and mesenchyme. By ten weeks, up to eight longitudinal ridges have formed by an elongation of individual epithelial cells. Even as the ridges are forming, the bases of some of the ridges become indented with mesenchyme thus forming longitudinal mucosal folds. By eleven and a half weeks, these have folded in a concertina fashion forming a longitudinal zig-zag pattern.

From ten and a half weeks, small lumina develop within the epithelium near to its base. At this stage, they are not in continuity with the main lumen. Extension of these lumina to the main luminal surface and exfoliation of redundant cells result in division of the zig-zag folds into broad primary villi.

Division of the primary villi occurs when cyst-like structures which develop within the pseudostratified columnar epithelium of the primary villi enlarge and extend to the lumen. Together with upgrowth of mesenchyme this results in small secondary villi with simple columnar epithelium.