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Am J Vet Res. 2003 Aug;64(8):982-8.

Detection of apoptotic cells in intestines from horses with and without gastrointestinal tract disease.

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  • 1Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, Virginia-Tech and University of Maryland, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA.



To identify apoptosis in equine intestines and determine whether apoptosis is associated with gastrointestinal tract disease or a specific tissue layer of intestine.


38 horses that underwent surgery or were euthanatized for small or large intestine obstruction, strangulation, or distension and 9 control horses euthanatized for reasons other than gastrointestinal tract disease or systemic disease.


Specimens were collected at surgery from intestine involved in the primary lesion and distant to the primary lesion site or at necropsy from several sites including the primary lesion site. Histologic tissue sections were stained with H&E, and apoptosis was detected by use of the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling technique. The number of apoptotic cells per hpf was counted in the mucosa, circular muscle, longitudinal muscle, and serosa.


Apoptotic nuclei were seen in all layers of intestine. An increased number of apoptotic cells was found in the circular muscle of the intestine from horses with simple obstruction, compared with strangulating obstruction or healthy intestine. Intestine distant from a primary strangulating lesion had higher numbers of apoptotic cells than did intestine distant from a simple obstructive lesion or intestine taken at the site of a strangulating or simple obstructive lesion.


Intestine from horses with obstructing or strangulating lesions in the small intestine and large colon had high numbers of apoptotic cells possibly because of ischemic cell injury and subsequent inflammation. Whether substantial apoptosis affects intestinal function is not yet known.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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