Glucosamine synthetase is the first enzyme in glycoprotein biosynthesis, catalysing the formation of glucosamine-6-phosphate, from which N-acetylglucosamine is formed. The levels of this enzyme in normal human colonic mucosa (in colectomy specimens and rectal biopsies) were found to be 13-8 +/- 4-0 micron mol glucosamine synthesised/h/g wet wt. In the colonic mucosa in ulcerative colitis and Crohn's colitis the enzyme level was diminished when there was loss of epithelial cells in the mucosa, although not when there was just loss of goblet cells. In patients recovering from an acute attack of ulcerative colitis, the enzyme levels rose to a peak above the normal range, an effect which did not occur in patients who did not recover promptly. This recovery peak may be related to the synthesis of gastrointestinal mucus, or immunoglobulin, or the secretory component of IgA, all of which contain large amounts of N-acetylglucosamine.
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