Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
J Inorg Biochem. 1999 Jun 30;75(3):167-80.

Dietary minerals in the gastrointestinal tract: hydroxypolymerisation of aluminium is regulated by luminal mucins.

Author information

Gastrointestinal Laboratory, Rayne Institute, St Thomas' Hospital, London, UK.


The regulation of mineral absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is poorly understood. Recent work has identified an intracellular metal-ion transporter but considerable evidence suggests that both soluble and mucosally associated luminal metal-binding ligands regulate initial uptake. Molecules ranging from low molecular weight organic acids to large glycoproteins have been suggested but a definite role for any such species has remained elusive. Here, a series of analytical techniques, allowing for this wide variation in potential binding ligands, was applied to the study of intestinal contents and tissue of rats following different feeding protocols. Aluminium, that has a low endogenous background and maintains a high concentration in the gastrointestinal tract, was investigated as a suitable dietary metal with hydrolytic behaviour similar, for example, to copper, iron and zinc. High resolution nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy identified a number of endogenous low molecular weight weak ligands that are secreted into the intestinal lumen. These may slow the rate of hydroxy-polymerisation of hydrolytic metals, allowing their effective donation to less mobile, higher molecular weight binding ligands. Histochemical staining suggested that such species may be soluble mucins as these were consistently associated with luminal aluminium. Significantly, this interaction prevented hydroxy/phosphate precipitation of aluminium, even at supraphysiological levels of the element. This was confirmed with X-ray micro-analysis investigations of ex vivo luminal contents. Nevertheless, from phase distribution experiments, the majority (60-95%) of luminal aluminium was associated with the intestinal solid phase and further histochemistry confirmed this to be gelatinous mucus, chiefly as the mucosally adherent layer. All results suggest a major role for mucus in regulating the gastrointestinal absorption of aluminium. It is proposed that, initially, soluble luminal mucus prevents the hydroxy-precipitation of hydrolytic metals at intestinal pH, allowing their effective donation to the mucus layer. Based on the differing reported metal-mucus interactions, elements that bind well to mucus (Al3+, Fe3+), with kinetically slow rates of ligand exchange (Al3+ < Fe3+) will be less well absorbed than poorly bound elements with kinetically faster rates of ligand exchange (Cu2+, Zn2+ etc.). This mechanism would readily explain many of the reported observations on mineral availability, including the marked variation in absorption of different elements, the differential effects of dietary ligands on mineral uptake and the competition for absorption between different metals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Support Center