Small intestine & ampulla


Histology-small intestine

Topic Completed: 1 August 2012

Minor changes: 22 July 2021

Copyright: 2003-2021,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Histology[TI] small bowel[TIAB]

Hanni Gulwani, M.B.B.S.
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Cite this page: Gulwani H. Histology-small intestine. website. Accessed September 21st, 2021.
Definition / general
  • Mucosa, submucosa, muscularis propria (externa), subserosa, serosa

  • Contains villi with central blood vessels, lymphatics
  • Layers are epithelium, lamina propria, muscularis mucosa

  • Short and stubby in duodenum, very tall in jejunum, intermediate height in ileum
  • Contain microvilli
  • Villus to crypt length is 3 - 5:1
  • Lined by primarily columnar absorptive cells and goblet cells
  • Usually 1 lymphocyte per 5 enterocytes
  • Villi may be short and distorted next to lymphoid aggregates
  • 4 normal villi in a row in a biopsy suggests normal villous architecture
  • Each villus contains an arteriole with capillary network, veins and a central lymphatic with numerous nerve fibres

Absorptive cells:
  • Have microvilli on luminal surface (brush border) and underlying mat of microfilaments (terminal web)

  • 1.5 - 2 m in length and 100 nm in diameter
  • PAS positive, actin myosin complexes

Goblet cells:
  • Occur in crypts and surface absorptive cells
  • Decrease towards villus tip, increase in frequency along small intestine (most numerous in lower ileum)
  • Columnar in shape, mucus droplet in supranuclear area, secretes mucus, ions and water

Crypts of Lieberkühn:
  • Lower 20% of epithelium, contain undifferentiated (immature) crypt cells, Paneth cells (have large, apical eosinophilic granules containing antimicrobial proteins), scattered goblet cells and endocrine cells
  • Are surrounded by pericrypt fibroblast sheath
  • Secrete ions, water, IgA, antimicrobial peptides into lumen
  • Crypt cells take 3 - 8 days to migrate to surface
  • Allows for rapid repair but also causes these cells to be sensitive to radiation therapy and chemotherapy

Lamina propria:
  • Contains loose connective tissue, lymphocytes, plasma cells, occasional eosinophils, macrophages, mast cells, neutrophils

  • Contains connective tissue, blood vessels, lymphatics, submucosal (Meissner) plexus
  • Also Brunner glands in duodenum

Brunner glands:
  • Submucosal mucous glands in duodenum, secrete bicarbonate ions, glycoproteins, pepsinogen II
  • Resemble gastric pylorus mucous glands

Muscularis propria (externa):
  • Inner circular and outer longitudinal layer, with myenteric (Auerbach) plexus between these layers
  • Plexus also contains interstitial cells of Cajal (Am J Surg Pathol 2003;27:228), ganglion cells, fibroblasts

  • Contains mesothelial lining, loose connective tissue

Endocrine cells:
  • Similar to cells in pancreas, biliary tree, lung, thyroid, urethra
  • Contain fine eosinophilic granules with secretory proteins
  • Nuclei on luminal side of granules, not basal
Microscopic (histologic) images

Contributed by Suhail Muzaffar, M.B.B.S.
Small intestine-normal (duodenum) Small intestine-normal (duodenum) Small intestine-normal (duodenum)

Small intestine - normal (duodenum)

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Brunner glands


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