A specific rabbit anti-human serum was used selectively to localize the aspartic proteinase cathepsin E to follicle associated epithelium (FAE) of human and rat intestine, including jejunum, ileum, appendix, colon and rectum, as well as of human palatine, pharyngeal and lingual tonsils. Coexpression of class II histocompatibility antigen HLA-DR antigen has been observed in some of the cathepsin E-positive epithelial cells. In addition, cathepsin E has been detected in a few mononuclear cells of intestinal lymphoid structures and tonsils resembling interdigitating reticulum cells of lymph nodes. Another aspartic proteinase, cathepsin D, has been found to be poorly represented in FAE and intensely expressed by macrophages. Electron immunocytochemistry localized cathepsin E to endosomal vesicles and endoplasmic reticulum of M cells in rat and human ileum as well as of M-like cells in human palatine tonsil. The results suggest a possible role of endosomal cathepsin E in the processing of macromolecules and microorganisms transported by M cells and related epithelial cells to mucosal associated lymphoid tissue (MALT).
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