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Int J Exp Pathol. 2002 Aug;83(4):203-8.

Dietary lectins can stimulate pancreatic growth in the rat.

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  • 1Foetal & Infant Toxico-Pathology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZA, UK.


Lectins are proteins or glycoproteins of nonimmune origin, which bind specifically to carbohydrate structures. They are widespread in the human diet, and many are resistant to digestion. High doses of lectins have been shown to stimulate intestinal and pancreatic growth. The aim of the present study was to investigate the long-term actions of low doses of lectins on the rat intestine and pancreas. A long-term carcinogenesis study was performed using low levels (40 micro g/rat/day) of peanut (PNA) or mushroom lectin (ABA) which bind to O-linked (mucin-type) oligosaccharides in the gut. While this was primarily designed as a colon carcinogenesis study, the pancreas was also investigated. No significant changes in colon carcinogenesis were seen, however, the colons were slightly heavier in the lectin treated groups. The weight of the pancreas was significantly greater (by 18 and 23%) in both lectin treated groups (P < 0.03/0.001). The weights of the acini and septal tissue were also increased by 39-46% in PNA and ABA fed animals, respectively (P < 0.002); there was no significant change in the endocrine pancreas. In conclusion, long-term feeding of low doses of lectin can influence pancreatic growth, and this trophic action may have potential adverse implications for the development of pancreatic cancer in humans.

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