The oesophageal tonsil of the chicken is a novel member of the mucosal-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT), which is located around the entrance of the proventriculus. It consists of 6 to 8 single units, which are surrounded by a thin fibrous capsule. Each one is organised around the bottom of the longitudinal folds of the oesophagus, and serves as a 'tonsillar crypt'. Stratified squamous epithelium is infiltrated by lymphoid cells, i.e. T cells, plasma cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells, but not B cells, to form lymphoepithelium (LE). In the LE vimentin-, MHC II- and ATPase-positive cells possibly represent Langerhans' cells, but the appearance of 74.3 positive cells in the LE is unusual, because the 74.3 monoclonal antibody (mAb) recognises chicken follicular dendritic cells in the germinal centre and medulla of the bursal follicles. The subepithelial lymphoid tissue is organised into T- and B-dependent regions, which are the interfollicular areas and the germinal centres, respectively. Existence of high-endothelial venules in the interfollicular region suggests an extensive cellular connection between the oesophageal tonsil and the other lymphoid organs. In the resting oesophagus the lumen is closed, but during swallowing a bolus the crypt opens and the lymphoepithelium can be exposed to undigested food, antigens, infectious agents and vaccines. The location of the oesophageal tonsil, cranial to the stomach, may provide this organ with a unique role as compared to the other parts of the MALT; namely, it may contribute to the replication of infectious bursal disease virus (IBDV) and/or the pathogenesis of infectious bursal disease.
- Dendritic cell
- Gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT)