Specific and total activities of the disaccharidases, sucrase, maltase, and lactase are increased in mucosa of the small intestine of the streptozotocin diabetic rat. Because disaccharidases are essential for terminal digestion of carbohydrate, and disaccharidase deficiency is a common clinical problem, understanding the mechanisms regulating disaccharidase activity is important. In normal animals, disaccharidase activities are determined by route of feeding and are decreased by parenteral feeding. The indirect exocrine, endocrine, neurocrine, and paracrine functions of the gastrointestinal tract that are dependent on feeding via the gut are greatly decreased in parenteral as compared with enteral feeding. Hormone secretion by the gut and the pattern of response after feeding may be abnormal in diabetes and might be regulatory for disaccharidases. We tested the hypothesis that the elevated intestinal disaccharidases in diabetes are dependent on enteral feeding. Streptozotocin-injected rats (diabetics) and vehicle-injected rats (controls) were fed rat chow ad libitum for 4 days. A subset of control and diabetic animals was then killed to determine disaccharidase activity of the jejunum at the start of pair-feeding the elemental diet. The remaining animals were fed 60 cal/day of glucose, amino acid (Travasol), and electrolyte solution either intragastrically or intravenously for 4 days. Specific and total activities of disaccharidases were greater in diabetics than in controls under all feeding conditions. In controls, the pattern of activity of disaccharidase specific activity was initial > intragastric > intravenous. In diabetics, disaccharidase specific activities did not differ among groups. In both controls and diabetics, mean mucosal mass was high-est initially; intermediate with intragastric feeding; and lowest with intravenous feeding. In both controls and diabetics, total disaccharidases decreased from initial to intragastric to intravenous. We conclude: (1) disaccharidase specific activity in controls is sensitive to feeding route and nature of diet, but is nearly independent of these factors in diabetics; (2) total disaccharidase activities respond to feeding stimuli in parallel with changes in mucosal mass in both controls and diabetics; and (3) the lack of feeding effect on the elevated specific activities of disaccharidases in diabetes suggests that this elevation is a response to the diabetic state and is independent of enteral factors such as luminal nutrition and gastrointestinal hormones.

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