Three monoclonal antibodies were prepared against luminal membranes from small intestinal cells of 3-d-old rats (YBB 1/27, YBB 3/10) and crypt cell membranes from adult rats (CC 4/80). The antibodies were shown to define specific stages of development of the intestinal crypt cells. The YBB 1/27 antigen was first detected at the luminal membrane of the epithelial cells in fetal intestine at day 20 of gestation; it was confined to the crypt cells and lower villus cells between 1 and 20-22 d after birth, and could not be detected in any region of the intestine in older animals. The YBB 3/10 antigen, identified as a set of high Mr proteins, was localized over the entire surface membrane of fetal intestinal cells and of crypt and villus cells after birth; after weaning (20-22 d after birth) it gradually disappeared from the villus cells and became confined to the region of the crypts. The CC 4/80 antigen, identified as a protein (or a set of related proteins) of molecular mass 28-34 kD, was shown to appear in the crypt cells 10-14 d after birth. Its distribution changed after weaning, when it disappeared from the crypts, and was localized in the absorptive lower villus cells. This change in pattern could, in part, be prematurely elicited by cortisone injection in younger animals. These results have demonstrated the presence of specific surface membrane components on the intestinal crypt cells, and suggested that fetal antigens may be retained in these cells after birth.

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