The peptide tyrosine tyrosine (PYY) is produced and secreted from L cells of the gastrointestinal mucosa. To study the anatomy and function of PYY-secreting L cells, we developed a transgenic PYY-green fluorescent protein mouse model.
PYY-containing cells exhibited green fluorescence under UV light and were immunoreactive to antibodies against PYY and GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1, an incretin hormone also secreted by L cells). PYY-GFP cells from 15 μm thick sections were imaged using confocal laser scanning microscopy and three-dimensionally (3D) reconstructed.
Results revealed unique details of the anatomical differences between ileal and colonic PYY-GFP cells. In ileal villi, the apical portion of PYY cells makes minimal contact with the lumen of the gut. Long pseudopod-like basal processes extend from these cells and form an interface between the mucosal epithelium and the lamina propria. Some basal processes are up to 50 μm in length. Multiple processes can be seen protruding from one cell and these often have a terminus resembling a synapse that appears to interact with neighboring cells.
In colonic crypts, PYY-GFP cells adopt a spindle-like shape and weave in between epithelial cells, while maintaining contact with the lumen and lamina propria. In both tissues, cytoplasmic granules containing the hormones PYY and GLP-1 are confined to the base of the cell, often filling the basal process. The anatomical arrangement of these structures suggests a dual function as a dock for receptors to survey absorbed nutrients and as a launching platform for hormone secretion in a paracrine fashion.