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Recommended video: Mesentery [16:05]
Overview of the mesentery on the anterior view of abdomen with the greater omentum reflected and small intestine removed.

The jejunum is the middle of the three parts of the small intestine between the duodenum and ileum. Its arterial supply is provided by the jejunal arteries, while the innervation by the celiac and superior mesenteric plexi together with the vagus nerve. It plays an important role for digestion as 40% of the whole small intestine is jejunum. Its functions include absorbing water and nutrients.

Histologically speaking, its mucosa is lined by simple columnar epithelium and contains the characteristic crypts of Lieberkuhn together with villi.

Key facts about the jejunum
Definition Part of the small intestine found between the duodenum and ileum
Blood supply Arterial arcades of the superior mesenteric artery
Superior mesenteric vein
Innervation Coeliac plexus, superior mesenteric plexus, vagus nerve (CN X)
Histology Mucosa - simple columnar epithelium; contains crypts of Lieberkuhn and intestinal villi
Submucosa - loose connective tissue containing neurovasculature
Tunica muscularis - an inner circular and outer longitudinal smooth muscle layer
Tunica serosa - simple squamous epithelium
Mnemonic:  M.S.M.S
Function Digestion of nutrients
Absorption of lipophilic nutrients
Absorption of water

This article will discuss the anatomy, histology and function of the jejunum.

  1. Anatomy
  2. Histology
  3. Function
  4. Summary
  5. Sources
+ Show all


The transition from the extraperitoneal ascending part of the duodenum to the intraperitoneal jejunum occurs at the duodenojejunal flexure (at the height of L2). The transition to the ileum is not sharply marked and only visible microscopically.

The jejunum makes up about 2/5 of the total length of the small intestine (1.5 to 3.5 meters).

Macroscopically noticeable are the many parallel running circular folds in the mucosa (valves of Kerckring). Like all intraperitoneal organs both the jejunum and ileum are attached to the posterior wall of the abdomen by the mesentery. By this means the entire convolute of the small intestine lies quite flexibly in the abdominal cavity however “framed” by the colon.

Learn more about the jejunum with our free digestive system quizzes and learning tools!

The blood supply is carried by around 5 jejunal arteries which are interconnected with the other arteries of the small intestine by numerous arcades. The venous blood drains through the correspondent veins into the superior mesenteric vein. The sympathetic innervation is carried by the nerves of the coeliac plexus and superior mesenteric plexus, the parasympathetic innervation by the vagus nerve (cranial nerve X).

Test your knowledge on the mesentery with this quiz.


The jejunum has the typical histological pattern as the entire small intestine: mucosa, submucosa, muscularis and serosa.

  • The mucosa is lined by simple columnar epithelium towards the lumen (lamina epithelialis). It contains enterocytes and goblet cells. Characteristic features are the crypts of Lieberkuhn and finger-like villi protruding in the intestinal lumen. Similar to the duodenum paneth cells are found deep in the crypts.
  • The epithelial layer is followed by a connective tissue layer (lamina propria) and a muscle layer (lamina muscularis mucosae).
  • The submucosa consists of loose connective tissue with blood vessels, lymph nodes and the Meissner’s plexus.
  • As usual, the muscularis has an inner circular and outer longitudinal layer of smooth musculature between which the Auerbach’s plexus lies.
  • The entire jejunum is covered by serosa from the outside which consists of simple squamous epithelium and a connective tissue layer underneath (lamina propria serosae).

It's easy to remember these layers if you use a mnemonic. ' M.S.M.S' stands for: Mucosa, Submucosa, Muscularis externa, Serosa.

Histologically the jejunum differentiates from the rest of the small intestine by the absence of Brunner’s glands (duodenum) and Peyer’s patch (ileum) however single lymphoid follicles are present.


The main tasks of the jejunum are:

  • cleavage of nutrients (e.g. by amylase, proteinase)
  • absorption of lipophilic nutrients (proteins, fats, cholesterol and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K)
  • absorption of water (about 90% of the secreted water, 6 to 8 liters/day). This induces an osmotic gradient leading to a paracellular transport of electrolytes, carbohydrates and amino acids.

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