Light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy have been used to delineate the structure and function of the lamina propria mucosae in the rat jejunum. In silver-impregnated sections, the adepithelial surface of the lamina propria mucosae was framed by a sheet of reticular fibers (reticular sheet). Short-term (3-hour) immersion of jejunal tissues in 2 N NaOH solution enabled us to simultaneously view networks of reticular fibrils and fibroblasts residing in the subepithelial connective tissue under a scanning electron microscope. The reticular fibrils, which measured about 40 nm in diameter and were interwoven in dense networks, formed a sheet 2–3 µm thick. In the villi, this sheet contained numerous foramina ranging from 3 to 7 µm in diameter, through which lymphocytes, macrophages, basal extensions of epithelial cells and fat particles traversed. The reticular sheet in the domes of isolated lymphoid nodules was markedly porous, and many lymphocytes migrated into or out of the epithelium through the foramina. The foramina of the reticular sheet may participate in the communication between the intestinal epithelium and the lamina propria mucosae. It was noted that the foramina of the reticular sheet in the villi were surrounded by end feet of the cytoplasmic processes of fibroblasts. In addition, these fibroblasts were combined with lymphocytes or dendritic cells in the lamina propria mucosae.

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