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Pflugers Arch. 2009 Jun;458(2):419-30. doi: 10.1007/s00424-008-0620-4. Epub 2008 Dec 2.

Adaptive response of equine intestinal Na+/glucose co-transporter (SGLT1) to an increase in dietary soluble carbohydrate.

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Epithelial Function and Development Group, Department of Veterinary Preclinical Sciences, The University of Liverpool, Brownlow Hill and Crown Street, Liverpool L69 7ZJ, UK.


Experimental and epidemiological evidence suggests that consumption of hydrolyzable carbohydrate, hCHO (grain), by horses is an important risk factor for colic, a common cause of equine mortality. It is unknown whether the small intestinal capacity to digest hCHO and/or to absorb monosaccharides is limiting, or even if horses can adapt to increased carbohydrate load. We investigated changes in the brush-border membrane carbohydrate digestive enzymes and glucose absorptive capacity of horse small intestine in response to increased hCHO. Expression of the Na(+)/glucose co-transporter, SGLT1, was assessed by Western blotting, immunohistochemistry, Northern blotting, QPCR, and Na(+)-dependent D-glucose transport. Glucose transport rates, SGLT1 protein, and mRNA expression were all 2-fold higher in the jejunum and 3- to 5-fold higher in the ileum of horses maintained on a hCHO-enriched diet compared to pasture forage. Activity of the disaccharidases was unaltered by diet. In a well-controlled study, we determined SGLT1 expression in the duodenal and ileal biopsies of horses switched, gradually over a 2-month period, from low (<1.0 g/kg bwt/day) to high hCHO (6.0 g/kg bwt/day) diets of known composition. We show that SGLT1 expression is enhanced, with time, 2-fold in the duodenum and 3.3-fold in the ileum. The study has important implications for dietary management of the horse.

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