Lev, R. & Orlic, D. Histochemistry (1974) 39: 301. doi:10.1007/BF00495681
Twenty fetal and infant colons ranging from 10 weeks in utero to 20 months postpartum, and 12 adult human colons were examined using histochemical techniuques in conjunction with in vitro radioautography using Na235SO4 as a sulfomucin precursor. Only the sulfated component of mucus in fetal goblet cells was found to differ significantly from adult colonic mucins. In the fetus sulfomucin staining was much weaker than in the adult, and was more intense in the left colon which is the reverse of the adult pattern. Sulformucin was concentrated in the crypts throughout the fetal colon whereas in the adult right colon it predominated in the surface cells. As in the adult, saponification liberated carboxyl groups, possibly belonging to sialic acid, and vicinal hydroxyl groups from fetal mucins suggesting that this procedure hydrolyses an ester linkage between these 2 reactive groups.
During the middle trimester of fetal life the colon possesses villi whose constituent cells display alkaline phosphatase in their surface coat. These and other morphological and histochemical similarities to fetal small intestine suggest that the fetal colon may have a limited capacity to absorb materials contained within swallowed amniotic fluid during this period.