Pseudopod-like basal cell processes in intestinal cholecystokinin cells

Abstract

Cholecystokinin (CCK) is secreted by neuroendocrine cells comprising 0.1%-0.5% of the mucosal cells in the upper small intestine. Using CCK promoter-driven green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression in transgenic mice, we have applied immunofluorescence techniques to analyze the morphology of CCK cells. GFP and CCK colocalize in neuroendocrine cells with little aberrant GFP expression. CCK-containing cells are either flask- or spindle-shaped, and in some cells, we have found dendritic processes similar to pseudopods demonstrated for gut somatostatin-containing D cells. Most pseudopods are short, the longest process visualized extending across three cells. Pseudopods usually extend to adjacent cells but some weave between neighboring cells. Dual processes have also been observed. Three-dimensional reconstructions suggest that processes are not unidirectional and thus are unlikely to be involved in migration of CCK cells from the crypt up the villus. Abundant CCK immunostaining is present in the pseudopods, suggesting that they release CCK onto the target cell. In order to identify the type of cells being targeted, we have co-stained sections with antibodies to chromogranin A, trefoil factor-3, and sucrase-isomaltase. CCK cell processes almost exclusively extend to sucrase-isomaltase-positive enterocytes. Thus, CCK cells have cellular processes possibly involved in paracrine secretion.

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