The effects of vitamin A deficiency on electrogenic transport in the colon were examined in rats made vitamin A deficient at weaning by feeding a vitamin A deficient diet for 40 days. A pair fed control group was given the same diet but supplemented with soluble vitamin A in their drinking water. The basal and stimulated electrogenic secretory and absorptive functions of the muscle stripped proximal, mid, and distal colon were examined in vitro using the short circuit current (Isc) as the index of net ion transport. A significant increase in the basal and secretory Isc (mainly Cl-ions) induced by the cholinergic agonist bethanechol was observed in the mid-colon of the vitamin A deficient rats. In the distal colon, however, vitamin A deficiency caused a significant reduction in both the basal and secretory Isc response to bethanechol compared with the vitamin A supplemented pair fed control. Secretory Isc induced by dibutyryl cyclic adenosine monophosphate was not significantly altered by vitamin A deficiency. The condition abolished the response of the distal colon to luminal amiloride (0.1 mmol/l). Thyroid hormone induced reduction in the distal colonic response to aldosterone is implicated in this lack of response. This is the first experimental linkage between vitamin A action, the thyroid hormone and aldosterone on colonic function. The colonic changes induced by vitamin A deficiency, namely hypersecretion and a reduced electrogenic distal absorptive function, together with the previously described small intestine hypersecretion may be the underlying basis for the diarrhoea observed in human and animal vitamin A deficiency.
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