Absorption of beta-casomorphins from autoperfused lamb and piglet small intestine

L. C. Read, A. P. Lord, V. Brantl, G. Koch


beta-Casomorphins (beta-CMs) derived from milk beta-casein may exert various opiate activities in milk-fed infants. To assess the physiological significance of beta-CMs as a source of circulating opioids in infants, we measured absorption rates of several beta-CMs under near-physiological conditions using in situ autoperfused lamb intestine. The naturally occurring beta-CMs, beta-CM-7 and beta-CM-4-amide, were absorbed readily into blood with no transfer into lymph. Uptake peaked within several minutes of the luminal infusion of peptide but then declined sharply and stopped within a further 10-15 min. The recovery in blood, intestinal contents, and tissue at the end of the 30-min experiment was less than 1% of the infused dose. The low recovery was due to rapid proteolysis based on in vitro studies that demonstrated half-lives of less than 5 min in lamb blood, luminal contents, and lymph. The synthetic dipeptidyl peptidase IV-resistant analogue beta-[D-Ala2]CM- 4-amide was stable during incubation in blood, lymph, or luminal contents and was absorbed into blood at rates that were maximal within several minutes and remained steady for the 30-min period. We conclude that although natural beta-CMs are transferred across the lamb small intestine, rapid degradation within the intestinal lumen, gut epithelium, and blood would prevent entry into the circulation under normal conditions. Val-beta-CM-7, a putative stable precursor, had similar stability and kinetics of absorption to beta-CM-7, results that exclude Val-beta-CM-7 as a stable precursor for delivery of beta-CMs to the circulation. Essentially identical results to those in lambs were obtained in 7-day-old piglets.