Induced Growth and Maturation of the Gastrointestinal Tract After Phaseolus vulgaris Lectin Exposure in Suckling Rats

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Objectives: In mammals, the postnatal development of the
gastrointestinal tract is characterized by vast structural and
functional changes. Using a suckling rat model, we investigated
whether red kidney bean lectin, phytohemagglutinin (PHA),
a potent gut mitogen in adult rats, can accelerate the growth and
maturation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Methods: At either 10 or 14 days of age, suckling rats were daily
gavage fed with PHA (0.05 mg/g body weight) or saline for 3 days.
At 1 or 3 days after this treatment, gastrointestinal organ growth,
intestinal morphology, disaccharidase pattern, macromolecular
absorption capacity, and pancreatic enzyme contents were studied.
Results: After PHA exposure, increased small intestinal growth
and number of crypt cells were observed, whereas the proportion
of enterocytes with supranuclear vacuoles in the distal
intestine was decreased. The macromolecular absorption of the
markers bovine immunoglobulin (Ig)G and bovine serum
albumin and plasma levels of maternal IgG decreased, and
intestinal disaccharidases switched toward an adult-like pattern.
The pancreas weight and pancreatic protein and trypsin contents
increased. These changes were partly reversible when the PHA
treatment began at 10 days of age, but they persisted when the
treatment began at 14 days of age.
Conclusions: PHA induced enhanced growth and precocious
functional maturation of the gastrointestinal tract in suckling
rats. The effects persisted if the PHA treatment started at 14
days of age, but not before, suggesting an age dependent mechanism.
These findings may lead to a better understanding of
gastrointestinal maturation and constitute a basis for the treatment
of mammals having an immature gut.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology


  • Endocytosis, Pancreas, Disaccharidases, Gut, Permeability
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-203
JournalJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition - Jpgn
Issue numberAugust
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Publication categoryResearch