Background: Intestinal mucus not only facilitates substrate absorption, but also forms a hydrophobic, phosphatidylcholine (PC) enriched, barrier against luminal gut contents.
Methods: For evaluation of the origin of PC in intestinal mucus, we first analyzed the mucus PC in mice with absent biliary phospholipid secretion (mdr2 (-/-) mice) using electrospray ionization (ESI) tandem mass spectroscopy (MS/MS). Second, in situ perfused rat jejunum, ileum and colon were analyzed after i.v. bolus injections of 155 pmol [(3)H]-PC. Additional in vitro experiments were performed with isolated mucosal cells after incubation with the PC precursor [(3)H]-choline.
Results: In mdr2 (-/-) mice and control animals no significant quantitative difference in mucus PC was found, indicating that mucus PC is of intestinal and not biliary origin. In situ perfusion studies detected intestinal secretion of [(3)H]-PC, which was stimulated in presence of 2 mM taurocholate (TC). Secretion rates of [(3)H]-PC were highest in ileum (9.0+/-0.8 fmol h(-1)xcm(-1)), lower in jejunum (4.3+/-0.5) and minimal in colon (0.8+/-0.2). It compares to an intestinal secretion of native PC originating to 64% from bile, 9% from jejunum, 28% from ileum, and 1% from colon. Complementary in vitro studies showed 30-min secretion rates for [(3)H]-PC to be highest in enterocytes from ileum (26.5+/-5.3% of intracellular [(3)H]-PC) and jejunum (19.8+/-2.9%), and significantly lower in colonocytes (8.4+/-1.3%).
Conclusion: PC in the intestinal mucus originates from secretion by ileal and jejunal enterocytes.