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Differential cytokeratin and glycoconjugate expression by the surface and crypt epithelia of human palatine tonsils

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ann Clark, Dr Caroline WilsonORCiD, Emerita Professor Janet WilsonORCiD, Emeritus Professor Barry Hirst


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Human palatine tonsils are clinically important due to their susceptibility to tonsillitis and association with other local and systemic diseases. Paradoxically, the tonsils function as antigen sampling sites of the mucosal immune system and, consequently, the tonsil epithelia perform both protective and antigen sampling roles. These epithelia are divided into stratified squamous epithelium overlying the tonsil surface and crypt epithelium lining the tonsil crypts, the latter of which includes reticular areas which are infiltrated by lymphocytes and are responsible for antigen sampling. In this study we characterised cytokeratin and glycoconjugate expression by healthy epithelia of human palatine tonsils. We identified pan-epithelial tonsil markers and also demonstrated that the surface and reticular crypt epithelia are differentiated by the expression of multiple cytokeratins. The latter finding supports the hypothesis that these epithelia undergo alternate differentiation pathways and possess different functional roles. In addition, we identified cell subpopulations in the tonsil epithelia which may represent distinct cell subtypes including specialised antigen sampling cells. These findings establish a basis for future studies to investigate histochemical changes in tonsil epithelia that are associated with or predispose to local and/or systemic disease.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wilson JA; Hirst BH; Clark MA; Wilson C; Sama A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Histochemistry and Cell Biology

Year: 2000

Volume: 114

Issue: 4

Pages: 311-321

Print publication date: 01/01/2000

ISSN (print): 0948-6143

ISSN (electronic): 1432-119X

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s004180000198

PubMed id: 11131096


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