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Gastroenterology. 1985 Nov;89(5):1026-34.

Delayed enzyme expression: a defect of aging rat gut.


To evaluate the effect of aging upon the small intestine, the distribution, content, and concentration of epithelial cell enzymes at different levels along the crypt-villus column were measured in aging and young adult, male, Fisher 344 rats. Specific activities of sucrase, maltase, lactase, and adenosine deaminase in mucosal homogenates were lower in the upper intestines of aging than in young animals, whereas the specific activity and content of thymidine kinase was higher. Enzyme activities were measured in cells obtained by cryostat sectioning from villus tip to crypt base. Sucrase and maltase activities were fully expressed nearest the crypt, alkaline phosphatase in cells higher on the villus, and adenosine deaminase higher still, whereas thymidine kinase activity was limited to the crypts. The ordered pattern of enzyme expression was maintained in aging rats but the initiation and duration were delayed. Because peak specific enzyme activities were similar in young and aging animals, the reduced specific activities in mucosal homogenates from aging animals were due to an increase in the proportion of relatively undifferentiated villus epithelial cells. These findings are of importance in explaining altered intestinal function during aging without a concomitant change in intestinal structure.

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