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Developmental Immunology
Volume 5, Issue 2, Pages 121-128

The Neonatal Development of Intraepithelial and Lamina Propria Lymphocytes in the Murine Small Intestine

1Department of Pediatrics, University Hospital Maastricht, P.O. Box 5800, Maastricht 6202 AZ, The Netherlands
2Department of Surgery, University of Limburg FacII, P.O. Box 616, Maastricht 6200 MD, The Netherlands

Received 22 April 1996; Accepted 3 July 1996

Copyright © 1997 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


During early neonatal life, important changes occur in the gut. The intestine is challenged by both milk and a microbial flora. Later on, at weaning, the diet of mice changes from milk to pelleted food leading to changes in microbial contents. This period seems essential for a complete development of the mucosal immune system. We investigated the development of both intraepithelial (IEL) and lamina propria lymphocytes (LPL), from day 5, and every 5 days, up to day 30 after birth. IEL and LPL were isolated from the small intestine and the phenotype was assessed by FACS analyses, using antibodies for detection of T-cell markers CD3, TCRαβ, TCRγδ, CD4, CD8α, CD8β, CD5, CD18, CD54, and CD49d. Our data show a clear increase in the number of LPL just before weaning, while the number of IEL increased after day 15. A more mature pattern of membrane antigen expression of both IEL and LPL was observed at weaning. The adhesion molecules CD18, CD54, and CD49d, essential for cellular communication of lymphocytes, showed an expression peak at weaning. In conclusion, the mouse mucosal immune system develops during the first 3 weeks of neonatal life leading to the formation of a more mature immune system at weaning.