The ability of adapting ileal enterocytes to express different digestive enzymes in their brush border membranes was tested in young female Wistar rats (n = 72) receiving 60% proximal small bowel resection. In control rats with intestinal transection both neutral aminopeptidase and alpha-glucosidase activities were shown, by quantitative cytochemistry, to increase during enterocyte migration over the lower part of the villus; thereafter enzyme activities declined or remained approximately constant. Proximal enterectomy increased the amount of alpha-glucosidase but not neutral aminopeptidase activity appearing during early enterocyte development. Thymidine labelled autoradiography showed that the rate of enterocyte migration along the ileal villus nearly doubled after jejunal resection (19.3 v 11.1 microns/h). Nevertheless, the time taken for both peptidase and saccharidase activities to appear at maximal rates in the brush border membrane was diminished by about five hours. Thus ileal enterocytes adapt to proximal small bowel resection by selective increments in enzyme expression, findings that contradict the previous hypothesis of simple metabolic immaturity.
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