The jejunum is the middle section of the small intestine in most higher vertebrates, including mammals, reptiles, and birds. In fish, the divisions of the small intestine are not as clear and the terms middle intestine or mid-gut may be used instead of jejunum.
The jejunum lies between the duodenum and the ileum. The change from the duodenum to the jejunum is usually defined as the ligament of Treitz.
In adult humans, the small intestine is usually between 5.5 and 6m long, 2.5m of which is the jejunum.
The pH in the jejunum is usually between 7 and 9 (neutral or slightly alkaline).
If the jejunum is impacted by blunt force the emesis reflex will be initiated.
The jejunum and the ileum are suspended by mesentery which gives the bowel great mobility within the abdomen. It also contains circular and longitudinal smooth muscle which helps to move food along by a process known as peristalsis.
The inner surface of the jejunum, its mucous membrane, is covered in projections called villi, which increase the surface area of tissue available to absorb nutrients from the gut contents. The epithelial cells which line these villi possess even larger numbers of microvilli. The transport of nutrients across epithelial cells through the jejunum and ileum includes the passive transport of sugar fructose and the active transport of amino acids, small peptides, vitamins, and most glucose. The villi in the jejunum are much longer than in the duodenum or ileum.
The jejunum contains very few Brunner's glands (found in the duodenum) or Peyer's patches (found in the ileum). However, there are a few jejunal lymph nodes suspended in its mesentery. The jejunum has many large circular folds in its submucosa called plicae circulares which increase the surface area for nutrient absorption.
Differences between jejunum and ileum
There is no line of demarcation between the jejunum and the ileum. There are, however, subtle differences between the two.
- The ileum has more fat inside the mesentery than the jejunum.
- The ileum is a paler color, and tends to be of a smaller caliber as well.
- While the length of the intestinal tract contains lymphoid tissue, only the ileum has abundant Peyer's patches, unencapsulated lymphoid nodules that contain large numbers of lymphocytes and other cells of the immune system.
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