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Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2010 Mar;298(3):G345-51. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00405.2009. Epub 2009 Nov 19.

Differential protein abundance and function of UT-B urea transporters in human colon.

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Center for Pain Research, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


Facilitative UT-B urea transporters enable the passage of urea across cell membranes. Gastrointestinal urea transporters are thought to play a significant role in the urea nitrogen salvaging process that occurs between mammalian hosts and their gut bacteria. This study investigated the expression of UT-B urea transporters in different segments of human colon. Immunoblot analysis showed that human colon expressed a 35-kDa glycosylated UT-B protein in the colonic mucosa. The 35-kDa UT-B transporter was predominantly located in plasma membrane-enriched samples (P < 0.001; n = 6), and its expression was greater in the ascending colon compared with the descending colon (P < 0.01; n = 3). At the cellular level, UT-B transporters were located throughout colonocytes situated in the upper portion of the colonic crypts. Bidirectional trans-epithelial urea transport was significantly greater in the ascending colon than the descending colon (P < 0.05; n = 6). In addition, the facilitative urea transporter inhibitor 1,3,dimethylurea significantly reduced urea transport in the ascending colon (P < 0.05; n = 6) but had no effect in the descending colon (NS; n = 6). These results illustrate differential protein abundance of functional UT-B protein in different sections of the human colon, strongly correlating to regions that contain the largest populations of intestinal bacteria. This study suggests an important role for UT-B urea transporters in maintaining the symbiotic relationship between humans and their gut bacteria.

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