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Mol Cell Biochem. 2001 Mar;219(1-2):91-8.

Oral repletion of iron induces free radical mediated alterations in the gastrointestinal tract of rat.

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Department of Biophysics, National Institute of Nutrition, Indian Council of Medical Research, Hyderabad.


Free radical mediated effects on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract were studied by supplementing 8 mg of iron orally for 15 days to groups of both control (C+) and iron deficient (D+) rats. They were compared with their respective unsupplemented groups C and D. Incorporation of 3H-thymidine into the isolated mucosal cells, as a measure of cell turn over, was lowered significantly in both the D+ and C+ groups compared to their respective controls D and C. It was observed that a single dose of 8 mg of iron given orally to control rats could cause apoptosis of GI tract mucosal cells as shown by the ladder pattern of DNA on electrophoresis. Continuous administration of the same dose of iron for a period of 15 days resulted in necrosis of the GI tract absorptive surface in D+ and C+ rats. In addition to this, a reduction of microvillus height in C+ and complete erosion of the same in D+ were observed by the transmission electron microscopy. EPR spectroscopy identified production of hydroxyl and methoxyl radicals in both the luminal and mucosal contents in the GI tract of rats. These results suggest that when iron is orally administered, free radicals are formed at the site of absorption causing damage to the GI tract mucosa.

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