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Food Chem Toxicol. 1988 Oct;26(10):867-80.

Intestinal transport of some macromolecules in food.

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FMC Corporation, Chemical Research and Development Center, Princeton, NJ 08543.


This review focuses on the intestinal transport of macromolecules in food. Although it is known that neonates have the ability to absorb proteins from the intestine as a means of passive immunization, it has generally been assumed that adults do not retain this capability. A number of studies have shown that the adult mammalian small intestine is capable of transporting a variety of macromolecules in food to a very limited extent. The evidence demonstrating the transport of test substances in the micron-size range across the adult intestinal epithelial barrier is examined for a number of food substances and environmental contaminants. It will be shown that macromolecules can be transported across this barrier by endocytosis; by uptake into the gut-associated lymphoid tissue, and possibly by uptake into the goblet cells. It is considered highly unlikely that large micron-sized particles pass between intestinal cells due to the integrity of the tight junctions between cells that exclude particles in this size range. Quantitative estimates for macromolecular uptake are included along with a discussion of the physiological parameters influencing macromolecular transport.

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