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Keywords:

  • cell locomotion;
  • crypt;
  • cytoskeleton;
  • electron microscopy;
  • enterocytes;
  • epithelium;
  • immunofluorescence;
  • intestine;
  • matrix;
  • mitosis;
  • morphogenesis;
  • villus;
  • wound healing

Abstract

Despite significant advances in our understanding of the roles of the cytoskeleton and matrix receptors in cell locomotion, derived largely fromin vitrostudies on the movement of epithelial cell sheets and isolated cells, the mechanism of epithelial cell migration in the adult intestine remains an enigma. The primary function of the epithelial cell cytoskeleton seems to be in the maintenance of the apical region of the epithelium facing the gut lumen. There we find the brush border, with its associated enzymes, and the intercellular adhesion complexes that give the epithelium its cohesiveness and its barrier function. Curiously, there is little in the way of an organized cytoskeleton in the basal region of the epithelium adjacent to the basement membrane on which the epithelium is presumed to migrate. In this short review, I focus on what is known about epithelial migration from our understanding of the structure of the epithelium and from studies on wound healing, and indicate some avenues for future study.