Effects of the carcinogen dimethylhydrazine (DMH) on the function of rat colonic crypts

M. Bleich, D. Ecke, B. Schwartz, G. Fraser, R. Greger*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Rats injected with dimethylhydrazine for 5 weeks (DMH, 40 mg/kg body weight) invariably develop colonic cancer after a latency of some 10-14 weeks. Preliminary studies have suggested that Na+ absorption by surface colonic crypt cells is attenuated in the preneoplastic period (8-12 weeks after the first injection of DMH). The present study of glucocorticoid-treated (dexamethasone 6 mg/kg body weight, s.c. 3 days or triamcinolone 30 mg/kg body weight, s.c. 3 days) rats was undertaken to examine the ion transport properties of rat distal colon during this period in more detail. Ussing chamber studies of the distal colon and whole-cell patch-clamp measurements in surface cells, mid-crypt cells and crypt-base cells obtained from isolated crypts were performed. In Ussing chamber studies the equivalent short-circuit current inhibitable by amiloride (10 μmol/l) DMH-treated rats was about 40% of control. In addition, the hyperpolarizing effect of amilonde (10 μmol/l) on membrane voltage (V(m)) was strongly attenuated in surface and mid-crypt cells of DMH-treated rats. Carbachol (CCH, 100 μmol/l), which predictably hyperpolarized surface, mid-crypt cells and crypt-base cells of control rats, had no significant effect on V(m) in DMH-treated rats, but increased membrane conductance (G(m)) significantly. This indicates that CCH probably activates both Cl- and K+ channels in all three colonic crypt compartments in the DMH-treated rats. Forskolin (5 μmol/l), which has the most pronounced effect in crypt-base cells in control rats, depolarized V(m) and enhanced G(m) in all three compartments in DMH-treated rats. These data indicate that DMH profoundly alters Na+ and Cl- transport in colonic crypts prior to the appearance of colonic adenocarcinoma and that these effects can be summarized as follows: (1) the Na+ conductance of surface cells is attenuated; (2) cells along the length of the crypt-lumen axis tend to lose their normal response to CCH and instead show simultaneous and comparable increases in K+ and Cl- conductances; (3) the effect of forskolin is enhanced along the entire crypt axis. As a result colonic crypt transport is shifted to predominant Cl- secretion, findings which are 1 characteristic of colonic carcinoma cell lines such as HT29 and T84 cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-259
Number of pages6
JournalPflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1996


  • Amiloride
  • Carcinogenesis
  • Cl secretion
  • Dimethylhydrazine
  • Na channel


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