This study examines the effects of an enteropathogenic Escherichia coli on microvillar membrane proteins during organ culture of rabbit ileal explants. Explants maintained with enteropathogenic E coli showed brush border effacement affecting approximately 50% of enterocytes, and where enteropathogenic E coli were closely adherent to the enterocyte surface microvilli were apparently being shed as vesicles. The microvillar membrane enzymes alkaline phosphatase, aminopeptidase N and alpha-glucosidase were released into the culture medium during organ culture, and this process was significantly enhanced by enteropathogenic E coli. This increased loss of microvillar membrane enzymes into the culture medium was associated with decreased tissue activities of microvillar membrane enzymes in enteropathogenic E coli infected ileal explants compared with control. For aminopeptidase N in particular, however, total enzyme activities in the tissue plus culture medium were increased comparing enteropathogenic E coli with control, suggesting that there might be an increase in the rate of synthesis of certain microvillar membrane proteins. Reorientating sucrose density gradient centrifugation of culture medium showed that alkaline phosphatase, aminopeptidase N and alpha-glucosidase were predominantly associated with particles of peak modal density 1.19 g/ml in both groups, confirming that enteropathogenic E coli accelerate release of microvillar membrane enzymes as vesicles. Analytical fractionation of ileal explants showed that enteropathogenic E coli resulted in a loss of microvillar membrane enzyme activities from the main brush border peak of modal density 1.21 g/ml present in controls. The density of the remaining smaller and lighter peak increased from 1.19 g/ml to 1.23 g/ml after homogenisation in digitonin, confirming association of these proteins with cholesterol containing membranes and not endoplasmic reticulum. These findings suggest that enteropathogenic E. coli accelerate the normal shedding of microvillar membrane proteins as vesicles, and may stimulate a compensatory increase in microvillar membrane protein synthesis.
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