Mucin glycoproteins play a key role in the regular function of the epithelium of the gastrointestinal tract, and in this study, the ontogenesis and development of mucin producing cells was examined in the broiler. Mucin-producing cells were observed in the small intestine from 3 d before hatch, and at this time contained only acidic mucin. After hatch and until Day 7 posthatch, the proximal, middle, and distal segments of the small intestine contained similar proportions of goblet cells producing acidic and neutral mucins. A gradient of goblet cell density was observed increasing along the duodenal to ileal axis. Delayed access to feed for 48 h posthatch resulted in an increase in intestinal intracellular mucins, which might have been due to impaired mucin secretion or enhanced mucin production. Changes in mucin dynamics could affect absorptive and protective functions of the small intestine.
- Goblet cells