First published July 1, 1987 - More info
Epidermal growth factor (EGF), an acid-stable peptide present in rodent and human milk, is absorbed and promotes intestinal growth when fed to suckling rats. To determine whether absorptive cells of suckling rat ileum conduct selective transepithelial transport of EGF, we followed uptake of 125I-EGF from ileal loops by autoradiography and biochemical methods. Specific binding sites for 125I-EGF were localized by electron microscope autoradiography on apical membranes of ileal epithelial sheets in vitro. During uptake in vivo, radiolabeled molecules were concentrated in apical endosomal compartments and were also associated with lysosomal vacuoles, basolateral cell surfaces, and lamina propria. Excess cold EGF reduced basolateral label by 44% and TCA precipitable serum label by 38%. After 30 and 60 min of continuous uptake, radiolabeled molecules in epithelium, denuded mucosa, blood, and liver were analyzed under reducing conditions by reversed-phase high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) and sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE). Although considerable degradation of 125I-EGF occurred after uptake from the lumen, a portion of radiolabel in epithelium and mucosa represented 125I-EGF which eluted somewhat more rapidly from C18 HPLC columns and showed a slight decrease in apparent molecular weight by SDS-PAGE. All radiolabel in blood and liver represented breakdown products. Thus, EGF is selectively transported across the ileal epithelium in suckling rats but is modified during transport. Milk EGF may accumulate in the lamina propria where it could influence growth and maturation of the suckling intestine.