Contribution of solvent drag through intercellular junctions to absorption of nutrients by the small intestine of the rat

J Membr Biol. 1987;100(2):123-36. doi: 10.1007/BF02209145.


The lumen of the small intestine in anesthetized rats was recirculated with 50 ml perfusion fluid containing normal salts, 25 mM glucose and low concentrations of hydrophilic solutes ranging in size from creatinine (mol wt 113) to Inulin (mol wt 5500). Ferrocyanide, a nontoxic, quadrupally charged anion was not absorbed; it could therefore be used as an osmotically active solute with reflection coefficient of 1.0 to adjust rates of fluid absorption, Jv, and to measure the coefficient of osmotic flow, Lp. The clearances from the perfusion fluid of all other test solutes were approximately proportional to Jv. From Lp and rates of clearances as a function of Jv and molecular size we estimate (a) the fraction of fluid absorption which passes paracellularly (approx. 50%), (b) coefficients of solvent drag of various solutes within intercellular junctions, (c) the equivalent pore radius of intercellular junctions (50 A) and their cross sectional area per unit path length (4.3 cm per cm length of intestine). Glucose absorption also varied as a function of Jv. From this relationship and the clearances of inert markers we calculate the rate of active transport of glucose, the amount of glucose carried paracellularly by solvent drag or back-diffusion at any given Jv and luminal glucose concentration and the concentration of glucose in the absorbate. The results indicate that solvent drag through paracellular channels is the principal route for intestinal transport of glucose or amino acids at physiological rates of fluid absorption and concentration. In the absence of luminal glucose the rate of fluid absorption and the clearances of all inert hydrophilic solutes were greatly reduced. It is proposed that Na-coupled transport of organic solutes from lumen to intercellular spaces provides the principal osmotic force for fluid absorption and triggers widening of intercellular junctions, thus promoting bulk absorption of nutrients by solvent drag. Further evidence for regulation of channel width is provided in accompanying papers on changes in electrical impedance and ultrastructure of junctions during Na-coupled solute transport.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diffusion
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Intercellular Junctions / physiology
  • Intestinal Absorption*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology*
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism*
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Rats
  • Rheology
  • Solubility
  • Solvents


  • Solvents
  • Glucose