Brush border membrane sucrase-isomaltase, maltase-glucoamylase and trehalase in mammals. Comparative development, effects of glucocorticoids, molecular mechanisms, and phylogenetic implications

Comp Biochem Physiol B. 1989;94(1):1-11. doi: 10.1016/0305-0491(89)90002-3.


1. Trehalase, sucrase-isomaltase and maltase-glucoamylase are three integral glycoproteins of the brush border membranes of the enterocytes. On the basis of a comparative study on alpha-glycosidase activities (sucrase, isomaltase, maltase, glucoamylase and trehalase) associated to these glycoproteins during neonatal development, mammals could be basically divided into three groups. 2. In rodents and rabbit alpha-glycosidase activities are low or undetectable during the suckling period and increase to adult levels during the weaning period. In cat, dog and the primates examined, alpha-glycosidase activities are well or fully developed at birth. 3. In ruminants and pinnipedia alpha-glycosidases are low or absent throughout life. 4. During the suckling period of rat, mouse and rabbit, glucocorticoids trigger a premature and dramatic increase of all alpha-glycosidases. 5. On the contrary, alpha-glycosidases development during the weaning period appears to be independent of glucocorticoids. Neither hypophysectomy nor adrenalectomy prevent the development of alpha-glycosidases; only the rate of increase is reduced. 6. Transplantations of intestinal isografts either in adult or suckling animal, have shown that (1) no systemic factor inhibits the expression of alpha-glycosidase, (2) alpha-glycosidases induction is neither triggered by luminal alimentary substances, nor by hormones, (3) alpha-glycosidase development is controlled by an intrinsic ontogenic program. 7. The use of an antiglucocorticoid failed to inhibit the spontaneous development of alpha-glycosidase activities. 8. The increase of maltase and sucrase activities triggered by glucocorticoids is associated with an increase of the concentration of two glycoproteins in the microvillous membrane: sucrase-isomaltase and maltase-glucoamylase. 9. After administration of glucocorticoids the increase of maltase, sucrase and trehalase is strongly inhibited by actinomycin-D and the increase of sucrase activity is associated with a parallel increase of sucrase-isomaltase mRNA. Transcription is most likely the primary site of control of alpha-glycosidase biosynthesis. 10. In the crypt cells, alpha-glycosidases biosynthesis appears to be triggered by a receptor-mediated glucocorticoid interaction. 11. The enterocytes synthesize more alpha-glycosidase molecules as they travel to the tip of the villi. 12. The simultaneous, biosynthesis of sucrase-isomaltase and maltase-glucoamylase triggered by glucocorticoids, as well as their simultaneous normal development suggest that they may be subjected to related control mechanisms. 13. It is suggested that sucrase-isomaltase and maltase-glucoamylase might have arisen by several cycles of partial gene duplication of an ancestor gene coding for a single site maltase-isomaltase; subsequent mutation would have transformed isomaltase into sucrase or glucoamylase.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Suckling
  • Glucan 1,4-alpha-Glucosidase / metabolism*
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Microvilli / enzymology*
  • Multienzyme Complexes / metabolism*
  • Phylogeny
  • Sucrase-Isomaltase Complex / metabolism*
  • Trehalase / metabolism*
  • Weaning


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • Sucrase-Isomaltase Complex
  • Trehalase
  • Glucan 1,4-alpha-Glucosidase