Developmental expression of intestinal surfactant-like particles in rats

R. Eliakim, M. J. Becich, K. Green, D. H. Alpers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have reported the appearance of surfactant-like particles enriched for intestinal alkaline phosphatase and phosphatidylcholine within enterocytes and in the lumen of adult fat-fed rat intestine. Because rat pulmonary surfactant decreases in abundance during the first postnatal days, we examined the developmental expression of these intestinal particles in suckling rats. Electron microscopy revealed abundant particles in 1-day-old rats within and surrounding the villus enterocytes, declining in frequency by day 14. Phosphatidylcholine content, alkaline phosphatase, sucrase-isomaltase, and lactase activity in particles peaked 1 day after birth, declining rapidly to adult levels by day 3 of life, except for sucrase, which peaked again after weaning. The postnatal developmental profile of the same brush-border-associated enzymes was totally different. Membrane fractions enriched for alkaline phosphatase and of similar density to rat surfactant-like particles were isolated from the small intestine of an amphibian (Xenopus laevis) and a fish (grass carp). Electron microscopy of the Xenopus membranes revealed unilamellar structures similar to the rat particles, but the carp membranes were of dissimilar morphology. We conclude that particles with surfactant-like properties in the rat intestine are ontogenically expressed like pulmonary surfactant; similar particles are evident only in animals with lungs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G269-G279
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number2 24-2
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Alkaline phosphatase
  • Phosphatidylcholine


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