In the human gastrointestinal epithelium, in situ hybridisation demonstrates that 12 S and 16 S mitochondrial ribosomal RNAs show maximal steady-state levels on the surface epithelial cells of the normal small intestine and colon. The mitochondrial mRNAs, cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase (IV) have a uniform distribution throughout the crypt and surface (villus) epithelial cells of the small intestine and colon. Histochemical stains for the activity of the mitochondrial respiratory chain enzymes succinate dehydrogenase and cytochrome oxidase also show almost uniform activities throughout the crypt-surface epithelial cell axis in the small and large intestines. In sections of normal human oesophagus the levels of mitochondrial ribosomal RNAs, mitochondrial mRNAs and the activities of mitochondrial respiratory chain enzymes are maximal over the basal cells of the stratified squamous epithelium. These results show a relative increase in mitochondrial ribosomal RNA expression compared with mitochondrial mRNAs in surface cells of simple intestinal epithelia.

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