Scanning Microscopy


Subcellular ion distribution in villus, crypt, Paneth and smooth muscle cells of the mouse small intestine under resting conditions was investigated by X-ray microanalysis of ultrathin cryosections. In addition, the mass distribution was estimated by measuring the optical transmission of the compartments in transmission electron micrographs.

Each cell type is characterized by a special composition in terms of the major monovalent ions Na, K, and Cl. In particular, among crypt epithelial cells, those cells containing small secretion granula (termed crypt A cells) also display cytoplasmic ion concentrations significantly different from crypt epithelial cells lacking secretion granula (crypt B cells). Monovalent ion concentrations in the cytoplasm of Paneth cells, muscle cells, and crypt epithelial cells lacking secretion granula are higher than expected from osmotic considerations. Hence, significant binding of ions to cytoplasmic polyelectrolytes is assumed in these cells.

There are gradients of dry mass and K concentration from the luminal to the basal side of the cell, both in crypt and in villus cells. The terminal web in these cells is rich in Na and Cl. The elemental composition of the large, dark secretion granula in Paneth cells is similar to that of the small dark granula in crypt cells. However, the two morphologically different types of granula within the Paneth cells have a significantly different elemental composition, which might reflect maturation of secretion granula.

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