Role of T lymphocytes in intestinal mucosal injury
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To determine the role of T cells versus mast cells in mucosal injury, we documented structural and functional changes in the intestine of congenitally athymic nude rats during infection with the enteric parasite, Nippostrongylus brasiliensis. Studies were conducted at days 4, 7, 10, and 21 postinfection; controls were uninfected. Villus damage was indicated by morphological abnormalities at days 7, 10, and 21 and reduced activities of disaccharidase enzymes at days 10 and 21. The activity of the proliferative enzyme, thymidine kinase, was increased only at day 21, at which time the crypts were elongated. Epithelial permeability increased significantly: 5-hr recovery (in urine and blood) of the probe molecule, [51Cr]EDTA, following injection into ligated jejunal segments, was elevated at days 7 and 10. Uptake of a protein antigen, ovalbumin, from lumen to blood followed a similar pattern. No evidence of functional T cells was demonstrated. However, mucosal mast-cell activation was indicated by elevated serum levels of rat mast-cell protease II at days 7 and 10. We conclude that the absence of thymus-derived T cells does not preclude mucosal damage involving impaired barrier and digestive function. Mucosal mast cells may be involved in causing the injury in this model.
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