Glucagon inhibits gastric acid secretion and increases the negativity of gastric mucosal potential difference (PD) in man. To test the hypothesis that the increased negativity of PD after glucagon in man could be due to decreased parietal cell canalicular membrane area, a quantitative ultrastructural analysis was carried out. Four healthy volunteers with normal gastric mucosa were submitted to biopsy before and 20 minutes after intravenous injection of 2 mg glucagon (G). This time corresponded with the maximal change in PD and a decrease in gastric acid secretion. Canalicular and tubulovesicular membrane area of 80 parietal cells (40 cells before glucagon and 40 cells after glucagon) were quantified by the Loud morphometric method. After glucagon, the oxyntic cell canalicular membrane area was reduced by one-fourth (P less than 0.05), while tubulovesicular membrane area showed an increase (P less than 0.05) at the same time. The decrease in the area of parietal cell canalicular membrane caused by glucagon may in part be responsible for increased negativity of the gastric PD caused by this hormone.
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