Polyethylene glycol 400 (PEG 400) is a clinically useful intestinal permeability probe whose rate of intestinal permeation is influenced in part by solvent drag. As mucosal prostanoids are increased in inflammatory bowel disease and affect water transport we examined the possible relationship between prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and the inhibitors of endogenous prostaglandins--the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS)--on PEG 400 absorption in vivo using segmental perfusion of rat small intestine. We found that the addition of exogenous PGE2 in concentrations of 0.5, 1.0, and 1.5 micrograms/ml significantly (p less than 0.01) decreased PEG 400 and water absorption. Addition of 5 mmol/l of the cyclooxygenase inhibitors acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) or indomethacin in concentrations 2.5 or 5.0 mmol/l to the perfusate significantly (p less than 0.01) increased PEG 400 and water absorption. The simultaneous addition of 1.0 micrograms/ml of exogenous PGE2 to the perfusate with 5 mmol/l of ASA or with 2.5 mmol/l of indomethacin reversed the increase of PEG 400 and water transport (p less than 0.01). There were no differences in PEG 400 and water absorption when PGE2 was given alone or in combination with ASA or indomethacin. This study suggests that endogenous or exogenous prostanoids play an important role in the regulation of PEG 400 permeation. PGE2 and NSAIDS modify PEG 400 permeation in parallel with changes in water transport indicating that their effect on permeability is through changes in solvent drag. These findings provide a mechanism which might explain the increase in PEG 400 intestinal permeability in Crohn's disease patients and the increase in intestinal permeability found in patients receiving NSAIDS.
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