Gastrointestinal associated lymphoid tissue can be divided into loosely organized effector sites, which include the lamina propria and intraepithelial lymphocytes, and more organized structures, such as mesenteric lymph nodes (LNs), Peyer's patches (PPs), isolated lymphoid follicles, and cryptopatches (CPs). These organized structures in the gastrointestinal tract have been hypothesized to play the role of primary lymphoid organ, supporting the extrathymic development of T lymphocytes (CPs), secondary lymphoid organs involved in the induction of the mucosal immune response (PPs), and tertiary lymphoid structures whose function is still under debate (isolated lymphoid follicles). The most widely studied lymphoid structure found in the small intestine is the PP. PPs are secondary lymphoid structures, and their development and function have been extensively investigated. However, single lymphoid aggregates resembling PPs have been also described in humans and in the murine small intestines. These isolated lymphoid follicles have both germinal centers and an overlying follicle-associated epithelium, suggesting that they also can function as inductive sites for the mucosal immune response. This review compares and contrasts the development and function of the four main organized gastrointestinal lymphoid tissues: CPs, isolated lymphoid follicles, PPs, and mesenteric LNs. Copyright © Blackwell Munksgaard 2005.