Protein Malnutrition During Juvenile Age Increases Ileal and Colonic Permeability in Rats

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Protein malnutrition can lead to morphological and functional changes in jejunum and ileum, affecting permeability to luminal contents. Regarding the large intestine, data are scarce, especially at juvenile age. We investigated whether low-protein (LP) diet could modify ileal and colonic permeability and epithelial morphology in young rats. Isocaloric diets containing 26% (control diet) or 4% protein were given to male rats between postnatal days 40 and 60. LP-diet animals failed to gain weight and displayed decreased plasma zinc levels (a marker of micronutrient deficiency). In addition, transepithelial electrical resistance and occludin expression were reduced in their ileum and colon, indicating increased gut permeability. Macromolecule transit was not modified. Finally, LP diet induced shortening of colonic crypts without affecting muscle thickness. These data show that protein malnutrition increases not only ileum but also colon permeability in juvenile rats. Enhanced exposure to colonic luminal entities may be an additional component in the pathophysiology of protein malnutrition.

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