The effects of Yersinia enterocolitica on intestinal goblet cells were investigated in New Zealand white rabbits. Animals infected with Y enterocolitica were compared with weight matched and pair fed controls. Goblet cell hyperplasia developed in the distal small intestine of infected rabbits on day 1, in the mid small intestine on day 3, and in the upper small intestine on day 6. In all regions hyperplasia persisted throughout the 14 day study. The degree of hyperplasia was greater in the distal small intestine than the upper and mid regions. Goblet cells in the proximal colon of infected animals seemed to respond as those in the distal small intestine. Thus goblet cell hyperplasia developed more rapidly and to a greater extent in the ileocaecal region where mucosal injury was most severe. These changes resulted directly from Y enterocolitica infection since goblet cell numbers did not increase in pair fed controls. Histochemically, goblet cell mucins from infected rabbits were unchanged at either six or 14 days. Biochemical analysis, however, established that purified mucins from animals on day 6 after infection were less sialylated (in the small intestine) and more sulphated (in the small intestine and proximal colon). In addition, mucins from the distal small intestine and the proximal colon seemed to contain fewer but longer oligosaccharide chains.
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