The wet weight of the stomach, small intestine, caecum, and colon were significantly reduced (p less than 0.001) in intravenously fed rats compared with orally fed controls. Human epidermal growth factor (urogastrone) reversed this atrophy. Detailed analysis of the small intestine showed a similar effect on intestinal crypt cell population, mitoses per crypt, and protein content. Brush border gamma glutamyltransferase and alpha glucosidase activities were reduced by up to 50% throughout the small intestine of the animals fed intravenously. The specific activities (mU/mg protein) were unchanged, as a concomitant decrease in the tissue weight and protein content also occurred. Intestinal brush border enzyme activities in the rats treated with urogastrone-epidermal growth factor were restored to those seen in the orally fed rats except for alpha glucosidase activity in the proximal gut. In addition, the specific activity of gamma glutamyltransferase was highly significantly increased (p less than 0.01) in all regions of the small intestine. Thus, although urogastrone administration prevents the decrease in brush border enzyme activity seen after the removal of luminal nutrition, the response seems to differ depending on the intestinal location, with the specific activities of some enzymes being higher than those seen in orally fed rats. Urogastrone-epidermal growth factor can thus significantly increase the functional ability of the intestine in addition to its trophic effects.
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