Structure of the mucosal immune system

The largest part of the mucosal immune system comprises the immunological tissue in the GI tract, the surface area of which is about 400 square metres, approximately 200 times that of the skin. In evolution, the mucosal tissues were probably the first organs to require specific immune protection.

The lymphoid tissues of the mucosae comprise the largest part of the immune system with 60% of all T cells being found in the epithelium of the small intestine. These tissues are particularly important in protection owing to their proximity to antigen. They consist of very organised collections of cells where antigen exposure and initiation of the immune response occurs, and effector

Figure 4.10 Mucosal immune responses

Antigen in the gut is transmitted via M cells into the submucosa where it is processed by dendritic cells or macrophages and presented to intra-epithelial lymphocytes. If the antigen acts as an allergen, upon second exposure mucosal mast cells will degranulate stimulating an acute inflammatory response - allergy.

Figure 4.10 Mucosal immune responses

Antigen in the gut is transmitted via M cells into the submucosa where it is processed by dendritic cells or macrophages and presented to intra-epithelial lymphocytes. If the antigen acts as an allergen, upon second exposure mucosal mast cells will degranulate stimulating an acute inflammatory response - allergy.

cells scattered throughout the mucosae where they perform their functions (e.g secretion of antibody).

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