Is the small intestinal epithelium truly ''tight'' to inulin permeation?

Thomas Ma, D. Hollander, R. A. Erickson, H. Truong, P. Krugliak

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37 Scopus citations


In this study, we evaluated the ''leakiness'' of intestinal epithelium through examination of small intestinal absorption of inulin in vivo by perfusing rat jejunum with 10 μM inulin. In physiological conditions, we found significant absorption of inulin at a rate of 44.6 nmol·100 cm-1·h-1 or absorption of 14.7 %·100 cm-1·h-1 of the amount perfused. Increasing water flux by changing the luminal osmolarity resulted in linear (y = 31.1 + 2.4 x, r = 0.97) increase in absorption of inulin, indicating a significant convective component of inulin absorption. There was large permeation of inulin at net water secretion and at zero net water fluxes (31.1 nmol·100 cm-1·h-1), indicating significant absorption of inulin by diffusive movement as well. The small intestinal tissue retention of inulin occurred rapidly within the first 15 min of perfusion, and the total tissue retention remained unchanged thereafter at ~ 10.8 nmol/100 cm. 16,16-Dimethylprostaglandin E2 decreased water flux, whereas cyclooxygenase inhibitors, indomethacin and acetylsalicylate, increased water flux. Inulin absorption closely paralleled changes in water flux induced by these agents. Taurocholate also caused parallel decrease in water and inulin absorption. Varying the resistance of unstirred water layer with changing luminal flow rate, the addition of mucolytic agent acetylcysteine, or alterations of luminal pH did not affect water or inulin absorption. We conclude that inulin permeates the small intestinal epithelium in significant amounts under normal physiological conditions, presumably through the paracellular pathways utilizing aqueous channels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G669-G676
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number5 23-5
StatePublished - 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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