A method that maximises the yield of viable enterocytes has been developed for the isolation of enterocytes from human jejunal biopsy specimens. These enterocytes have been used to study the values of intracellular free calcium and the rises in adenosine 3'5'-cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) induced by secretagogues in normal and cystic fibrosis cells. Basal intracellular free calcium of cystic fibrosis enterocytes, measured fluorimetrically with fura-2, was within the range of the basal intracellular free calcium of non-cystic fibrosis enterocytes (cystic fibrosis 263 nmol/l; non-cystic fibrosis 287 nmol/l). Changes in intracellular free calcium were observed after exposure to ionomycin: a 100 nmol/l solution induced a 2.5 fold increase in intracellular free calcium in the cystic fibrosis enterocytes and a 2.2 fold increase in the intracellular free calcium concentration of the non-cystic fibrosis enterocytes. Basal cAMP values were not significantly different between cystic fibrosis and non-cystic fibrosis enterocytes (cystic fibrosis 575 fmol/100,000 cells; non-cystic fibrosis 716 fmol/100,000 cells, p greater than 0.05) and the enterocyte cAMP value increased in response to stimulation with prostaglandin E2 (7 mumol/l) (cystic fibrosis 2.2 fold increase over basal, p less than 0.05; non-cystic fibrosis 1.9 fold stimulation over basal, p less than 0.05) and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (100 nmol/l) (cystic fibrosis 7.1 fold increase over basal, p less than 0.05; non-cystic fibrosis 5.8 fold increase over basal, p less than 0.05). There was no significant difference in the magnitude of the response between cystic fibrosis and non-cystic fibrosis enterocytes (p greater than 0.05). These results indicate that the cystic fibrosis defect in the small intestine, as in other affected epithelia, seems to be distal to the production of second messengers. The small intestine is therefore an appropriate model in which to study the biochemical defect in cystic fibrosis.
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