To gain insight into mucin 2 (Muc2) synthesis and secretion during dextran sulfate sodium (DSS)-induced colitis, rats were treated with DSS for 7 days. Colonic segments were excised on days 0 (control), 2 (onset of disease), 7 (active disease), and 14 (regenerative phase) for histological evaluation. Explants were metabolically labeled with (35)S-labeled amino acids or [(35)S]sulfate followed by chase incubation. Homogenates were analyzed by SDS-PAGE and (35)S-labeled Muc2 was quantified. Also, total Muc2 protein and mRNA were quantified. DSS-induced crypt loss, ulcerations, and concomitant goblet cell loss were most pronounced in the distal colon. Muc2 precursor synthesis increased progressively in the proximal colon but was unaltered in the distal colon during onset and active disease. During the regenerative phase, Muc2 precursor synthesis levels normalized in the proximal colon but increased in the distal colon. Total Muc2 levels paralleled the changes seen in Muc2 precursor synthesis levels. During each disease phase, total Muc2 secretion was unaltered in the proximal and distal colon. [(35)S]sulfate incorporation into Muc2 only decreased in the proximal colon during active disease and the regenerative phase, whereas secretion of [(35)S]sulfate-labeled Muc2 increased. During the regenerative phase, Muc2 mRNA levels were downregulated in both colonic segments. In conclusion, DSS-induced loss of goblet cells was accompanied by an increase or maintenance of Muc2 precursor synthesis, total Muc2 levels, and Muc2 secretion. In the proximal colon, Muc2 became undersulfated, whereas sulfated Muc2 was preferentially secreted. Collectively, these data suggest specific adaptations of the mucus layer to maintain the protective capacities during DSS-induced colitis.

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American Journal of Physiology: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam