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Identification of brush cells in the alimentary and respiratory system by antibodies to villin and fimbrin


Brush cells represent a population of epithelial cells with unknown function, which are scattered throughout the epithelial lining of both the respiratory system and the alimentary system. These cells are reliably distinguished from other epithelial cells only at the ultrastructural level by the presence of an apical tuft of stiff microvilli and extremely long microvillar rootlets that may project down to the perinuclear space. In the present study we show that brush cells can be identified in tissue sections even at the light microscopic level by immunostaining with antibodies against villin and fimbrin, two proteins that crosslink actin filaments to form bundles. In brush cells, villin and fimbrin are not only present in the actin filament core bundles of apical microvilli and their long rootlets but, in addition, both proteins are also associated with microvilli extending from the basolateral cell surface of the brush cells. Basolateral immunostaining specific for villin and fimbrin does not occur in any other epithelial cell type of the respiratory and alimentary tract. Thus immunostaining with antibodies against both proteins allows unequivocal identification of individual brush cells even in sectional planes that do not contain the brightly stained apical tuft of microvilli and their long rootlets.

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Correspondence to D. Drenckhahn.

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Höfer, D., Drenckhahn, D. Identification of brush cells in the alimentary and respiratory system by antibodies to villin and fimbrin. Histochemistry 98, 237–242 (1992).

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  • Epithelial Cell
  • Actin Filament
  • Respiratory System
  • Sectional Plane
  • Alimentary Tract