Resistance of germfree rats to indomethacin-induced intestinal lesions

Prostaglandins. 1977 Aug;14(2):333-41. doi: 10.1016/0090-6980(77)90178-2.


Indomethacin given orally to conventional rats produced in three days a syndrome, often fatal, of intestinal lesions characterized by multiple ulcers and peritonitis. Male germfree rats were found to be resistant to this effect of indomethacin, while female germfree rats developed very mild lesions. Germfree rats became sensitive again to such lesions when monocontaminated with E. coli. In such animals, however, the lesions were less severe than in conventional animals, presumably because more than one microorganism is necessary for the full syndrome to develop. These results suggest that microorganisms are necessary for the development of indomethacin-induced intestinal lesions. Secondary bile acids, absent in germfree animals, may also be necessary. The prostaglandin deficiency caused by indomethacin appears to weaken the resistance of the intestinal mucosa to microorganisms and/or their toxins. The latter may then penetrate the mucosa, damage the cells and produce ulcers and perforations. Since several prostaglandins also protect against indomethacin-induced lesions, the hypothesis is advanced that certain prostaglandins may protect the mucosa ("cytoprotection") by preventing the spread of microorganisms and/or their toxin through the intestinal wall.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Escherichia coli
  • Female
  • Germ-Free Life
  • Indomethacin*
  • Intestinal Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Male
  • Peritonitis / chemically induced
  • Prostaglandins E / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Sex Factors
  • Ulcer / chemically induced*


  • Prostaglandins E
  • Indomethacin