Surface-active phospholipid-containing particles are traditionally considered to be the product of type II pneumocytes. We now demonstrate membrane-bound lamellar cytoplasmic organelles in adult and suckling rat enterocytes that are densely reactive with phospholipid-staining reagents. These structures were seen in the basolateral space, within the intercellular junctions, and unraveling on the lumenal surface, and were more abundant after fat feeding. Light scrapings of intestinal mucosa and lumenal washings that contained these bodies, as evidenced by morphology and biochemical analysis, lowered surface tension in a pulsating bubble assay. Production by normal enterocytes of material with surfactant-like appearance and properties demonstrates that these structures are present in extrapulmonary epithelia, and extends the possible range of their function beyond gaseous exchange, e.g., solute exchange or lubrication on membrane surfaces.
K DeSchryver-Kecskemeti, R Eliakim, S Carroll, W F Stenson, M A Moxley, D H Alpers