In vitro studies of gastric juice in patients with food-cobalamin malabsorption

Dig Dis Sci. 1994 Dec;39(12):2516-22. doi: 10.1007/BF02087684.


Food-cobalamin absorption depends on the initial release of cobalamin from its binders in food. Therefore, the characterization of patients' gastric juices and their behavior in this process was undertaken. Pentagastrin-stimulated gastric juice specimens from three patients with severe food-cobalamin malabsorption, six patients with mild malabsorption, and five patients with normal absorption were tested for pH, pepsin, intrinsic factor content, and an in vitro method that quantitates transfer of cobalamin from egg yolk to gastric R binder. Transfer of cobalamin correlated best with in vivo egg yolk-cobalamin absorption test results in the 14 patients (r = 0.731, P < 0.005). Transfer also correlated inversely with gastric juice pH (r = -0.619, P < 0.02). Basal gastric juice specimens, with their higher pH, from the same subjects failed to promote cobalamin transfer until their pH was lowered to 1.0-1.3. Pepsin levels did not correlate with in vitro transfer or with absorption in vivo; nevertheless, raising the low pepsin concentration of one stimulated gastric juice improved transfer, while inhibiting pepsin activity with pepstatin A inhibited transfer. Mixing experiments with selected stimulated gastric juices demonstrated that poor in vitro transfer, which in a few cases seemed unrelated to pH or pepsin levels, was not due to any inhibitory activity of such gastric juices. These studies confirm that gastric acid and pepsin play a central role in releasing food-bound cobalamin and transferring it to R binder, but suggest that other, still unidentified gastric defects occasionally contribute to impaired transfer; the latter defects are not inhibitory in nature but seem to involve the absence of a permissive activity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Gastric Juice / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Intrinsic Factor / analysis
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / etiology
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / metabolism*
  • Pentagastrin / pharmacology
  • Pepsin A / analysis
  • Schilling Test
  • Transcobalamins / metabolism
  • Vitamin B 12 / pharmacokinetics*
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / etiology
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / metabolism*


  • Transcobalamins
  • Intrinsic Factor
  • Pepsin A
  • Pentagastrin
  • Vitamin B 12