, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 197-204

Morpho-cytochemical and biochemical evidence for insulin absorption by the rat ileal epithelium

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In order to investigate the mechanism through which insulin is absorbed by the intestinal epithelium and transferred to the circulation where it exercises its biological activity of lowering blood glucose levels, a combined biochemical morpho-cytochemical study was undertaken on rat ileal tissue, in vivo. Insulin was introduced into the lumen of the ileum in combination with sodium cholate and aprotinin and allowed to be absorbed for various periods of time. Analysis of blood samples from the inferior vena cava, at different time points has demonstrated an increase in plasma insulin followed by a decrease in blood glucose levels. The ileal tissues were studied at different time points after the introduction of the insulin, by applying the protein A-gold immunocytochemical technique. Insulin antigenic sites were detected with high resolution, at various levels of the enterocytes but were absent from goblet cells. At 2 to 5 min, the labelling was mainly associated with the microvilli and endocytotic vesicles in the apical portion of the epithelial cells. Some gold particles were in contact with the lateral membranes. At 10 min, the labelling was found at the level of the trans-side of the Golgi apparatus and mainly along the baso-lateral membranes of the epithelial cells. Labelling was also detected in the interstitial space. The control experiments have demonstrated the specificity of the labelling and confirmed the nature of the insulin molecules detected. Furthermore, the morphological study has confirmed that exposure of the tissue to the insulin-cholate-aprotinin solution does not affect the integrity of the epithelium while promoting insulin absorption. Thus, insulin introduced in the lumen of the rat ileum in conjunction with sodium cholate and aprotinin, appears to be rapidly absorbed by the epithelial cells and transferred to the circulation through a transcytotic pathway.