Water-soluble luminal contents of the gut of the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris L. and their physiological significance

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2001 Jun;129(2-3):345-53. doi: 10.1016/s1095-6433(00)00352-4.


In the post-gizzard gut of the earthworm Lumbricus terrestris, distinguishing the functions of the luminal epithelium from those of the chloragogenous tissue has been hindered by the close apposition of these two tissues. Moreover, both tissues may have different functions from the anterior to the posterior of the animal. We analyzed the gut luminal contents of L. terrestris so as to gain a better understanding of the function of the luminal epithelium. The intestine was divided into four regions from anterior to posterior, and the water-soluble portion of the luminal contents of these four regions was analyzed for protease and amylase activity, calcium and ammonium ions, and protein. The same four regions of the gut wall were analyzed for glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) and serine dehydratase (SDH) to determine their location with reference to the site of ammonia production. We observed high levels of proteases, amylase, protein and calcium ions in the gut luminal contents of the first two regions, and a significant decline of all four variables in region III. Conversely, ammonia was low in the gut contents of regions I and II but rose sharply in region III, which was also the region to which the tissue enzymes GDH and SDH were localized. The ammonia content of earthworm casts was observed to be much higher than that of the surrounding soil. These data are presented as partial evidence for the proposal that the excretory ammonia produced by feeding earthworms is a product of the luminal epithelium of region III of the gut. It is also proposed that ammonia and calcium may function as ion-exchangers in the absorptive function of the earthworm gut.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Digestive System / chemistry
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Enzyme Stability
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Glutamate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Intestines / chemistry
  • Intestines / physiology
  • L-Serine Dehydratase / metabolism
  • Linear Models
  • Oligochaeta / physiology*
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / metabolism
  • Soil
  • Solubility
  • Water


  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Glutamate Dehydrogenase
  • L-Serine Dehydratase