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Digestion. 1990;46 Suppl 2:308-16.

Relationship between survival and binding of plant lectins during small intestinal passage and their effectiveness as growth factors.

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Rowett Research Institute, Bucksburn, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.


The effects on the small intestine and the growth of rats of six pure plant lectins: PHA (Phaseolus vulgaris); SBL (Glycine maxima); SNA-I and SNA-II (Sambucus nigra); GNA (Galanthus nivalis) and VFL (Vicia faba), covering most sugar specificities found in nature, were studied in vivo. Variable amounts, 25% (VFL) to 100% (PHA, GNA) of the lectins administered intragastrically, remained in immunochemically intact form in the small intestine after 1 h. All lectins, except GNA, showed binding to the brush border on first exposure, although this was slight with VFL. Thus, binding to the gut wall was not obligatory for resistance to proteolysis. Exposure of rats to lectins, except VFL, for 10 days, retarded their growth but induced hyperplastic growth of their small intestine. The two activities were directly related. PHA and SNA-II, whose intestinal binding and endocytosis was appreciable after 10 days of feeding the rats with diets containing these lectins and similar to that found on acute (1 h) exposure, were powerful growth factors for the small intestine. GNA, which did not bind at the start but was reactive after 10 days, and SNA-I, which behaved in the opposite way, induced changes in receptor expression in the gut. As they were bound to the brush border transiently, they were less effective growth factors. VFL was not bound or endocytosed, was non-toxic and did not promote gut growth.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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