When studying mucosal barrier function of developing animals, we noted that intestinal microvillus membranes (MVM) of newborn animals differ in their fluidity and binding characteristics to lectins compared with adult MVM. To further investigate these differences and determine whether maturation of the microvillus surface could be accelerated in utero, pregnant rats were given intraperitoneal cortisone beginning on the 17th day of gestation. Control and cortisone-treated animals were allowed to deliver normally, and the small intestines from newborns were used to isolate MVM. Microvillus membrane surface characteristics were evaluated by employing an 125I-labeled fucose-specific lectin, Ulex europeus (UEA). Changes in MVM proteins were monitored by disaccharidase activities and sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide electrophoresis. MVM fluidity was accessed using a 5-doxyl stearic acid label and electron-spin-resonance spectroscopy. Results from these studies indicate that the birth weights of newborn rats exposed to cortisone in utero were significantly reduced; sucrase activity was prematurely induced and specific activities of lactase and maltase were enhanced in the intestines of the cortisone-treated newborns as contrasted with control animals. Furthermore, binding of 125I-UEA to MVM was greatly increased in treated animals. MVM fluidity decreased (P less than 0.001) compared with control animals and resembled the structural characteristics of more mature MVM. These results suggest that cortisone exposure in utero accelerate maturation of the microvillus surface of enterocytes.
- Copyright © 1985 the American Physiological Society