Small intestinal crypt epithelium obtained from normal fasting humans by peroral biopsy of the mucosa was studied with the electron microscope. Paneth cells were identified at the base of the crypts by their elaborate highly organized endoplasmic reticulum, large secretory granules, and small lysosome-like dense bodies within the cytoplasm. Undifferentiated cells were characterized by smaller cytoplasmic membrane-bounded granules which were presumed to be secretory in nature, a less elaborate endoplasmic reticulum, many unattached ribosomes and, in some cells, the presence of glycogen. Some undifferentiated cells at the base of the crypts contained lobulated nuclei and striking paranuclear accumulations of mitochondria. Membrane-bounded cytoplasmic fragments, probably originating from undifferentiated and Paneth cells, were frequently apparent within crypt lumina. Of the goblet cells, some were seen actively secreting mucus. In these, apical mucus appeared to exude into the crypt lumen between gaps in the microvilli. The membrane formerly surrounding the apical mucus appeared to fuse with and become part of the plasma membrane of the cell, suggesting a merocrine secretory mechanism. Enterochromaffin cells were identified by their location between the basal regions of other crypt cells and by their unique intracytoplasmic granules.

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