Sections through various levels of small intestine from adult male rats were examined by fluorescence microscopy after treatment with fluorescein isothiocyanate-labeled lectins from Dolichos biflorus, Lotus tetragonolobus, Ricinus communis, and Triticum vulgare (wheat germ). The latter three lectins reacted with the microvillar portion of the epithelial cells lining the crypts and villi in sections of intestine adjacent to the pylorus. This pattern of reactivity was sharply altered along the first 15 cm of intestine so that in sections distal to this point the luminal surfaces of only those epithelial cells in the crypts and at the base of the villi reacted with the L. tetragonolobus and R. communis lectins, whereas the wheat germ lectin reacted with the surfaces of the cells lining the villi. In sections from the distal end of the small intestine, all three lectins reacted with the surfaces of cells only at the base of the villi and in the crypts.
These results show a difference in surface components in cells at various portions on the villi and the dependence of these differences on the region of intestine. The D. biflorus lectin reacted with approximately 25% of the goblet cells at each level of intestine studied whereas the reactivities of the goblet cells with the other three lectins were dependent upon the region of intestine.