The effects of chronic ethanol feeding on the amounts and synthesis rates of cytoplasmic, contractile, and stromal protein fractions were investigated in the small intestine of eight pairs of immature and seven pairs of mature rats. Treated rats were fed ethanol as 36% of total energy in a nutritionally adequate liquid diet. Paired controls were fed isovolumetric amounts of the same diet in which ethanol was substituted by isocaloric glucose. After six weeks the total cytoplasmic and contractile protein content in immature rats was reduced by 18% and 31%, respectively (p less than or equal to 0.007). The decline in the stromal protein content (26%) was not statistically significant (p = 0.130). In mature rats the protein contents were also reduced in the cytoplasmic (25%, p = 0.035) and contractile (27%, p = 0.005) protein fractions, though the stromal protein fraction was unaltered (p = 0.913). In immature rats fractional rates of protein synthesis in cytoplasmic and contractile protein fractions of the small intestine were unaltered by chronic ethanol feeding (p less than or equal to 0.853). In mature rats, the synthesis rates of corresponding fractions declined, by 18% and 31%, respectively, but were also not statistically significant (p less than or equal to 0.369). Absolute rates of protein synthesis in immature rats fell by 6% (p = 0.549) in the cytoplasmic and 31% in the contractile protein fraction (p = 0.045). In mature rats, the corresponding reductions were 38% (p = 0.106) and 48% (p = 0.033), respectively. Virtually no radioactivity could be detected in the stromal fraction, signifying very low synthesis rates. Chronic ethanol feeding reduces the amount of protein in the small intestine of the immature and mature rat with the contractile protein fraction showing the greatest decrease. In the absence of statistically significant reductions in fractional synthesis rates a partial adaptation in turnover rates may have occurred.
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