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Gastroenterology. 1991 Feb;100(2):359-69.

Mosaic pattern of lactase expression by villous enterocytes in human adult-type hypolactasia.

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Department of Pediatrics, II Medical School, University of Naples, Italy.


Immunohistological analysis of the expression of lactase protein in adults with hypolactasia has been carried out using monoclonal antibodies. Eight different antibodies that recognize at least three distinct epitopes on the lactase protein each gave the same result. Strong brush border staining was observed in all the lactase-persistent adults. No staining at all was detected in 9 of the hypolactasic subjects. In the remaining 12 individuals a mosaic pattern of expression was observed: small patches of enterocytes stained strongly, whereas the surrounding areas showed no staining at all. Sucrase-isomaltase, in contrast, showed no such mosaicism in these or in any of the other individuals. The mosaicism observed in the 12 hypolactasic individuals suggests that the differentiation of the columnar cells along the villus is not homogeneous. Furthermore, the existence of two patterns of expression of the lactase protein in the lactase-deficient individuals (i.e., absence of protein and mosaicism), if characteristic of the entire length of the intestine of the individuals tested, would suggest the existence of two phenotypes of adult-type hypolactasia in the population studied.

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