Each enterocyte has about 1000 minute processes or microvilli which project into the intestinal lumen. Multiple actin filaments extending into the interior of each microvillus are believed to be responsible for contraction of the microvilli and thus the movement of the fluid immediately in contact with the surface.

The membrane which forms the microvilli on the outer surface of the absorptive cells is rich in protein, cholesterol and glycolipids and contains enzymes, disaccharidases and peptidases which are localised within the surface membrane. Specific receptor proteins are located on the microvillus membrane-surface coat complex which selectively bind substances prior to their absorption, including the intrinsic factor-vitamin B12 complex in the ileum and conjugated bile salts in the distal intestine.

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