The longitudinal expression of two brush-border enzymes, lactase-phlorizin hydrolase (EC and aminopeptidase N (EC, was studied in the small intestine of the post-weaned pig. Whereas the level of mRNA, encoding aminopeptidase N (relative to that of beta-actin), only varied moderately from the duodenum to the terminal ileum, the amount of lactase-phlorizin hydrolase mRNA exhibited a sharp maximum in the proximal jejunum. For both enzymes, the level of protein synthesis, studied in cultured mucosal explants, correlated well with the level of mRNA, and no major variation in post-translational processing or intracellular transport was observed along the intestine. The mRNA/specific-activity ratio for both enzymes was markedly (3-5-fold) higher in the duodenum and proximal jejunum, compared with the ileum. This indicates an increased proximal turnover rate, most likely caused by the presence in the gut lumen of pancreatic proteases. In neonatal animals, the level of mRNA for lactase-phlorizin hydrolase in both proximal and distal regions of the intestine was of the same magnitude as in the proximal jejunum of the post-weaned pigs. Our results point to two mechanisms that affect the expression of lactase-phlorizin hydrolase in the pig during development: (1) a primary regulation at the level of mRNA (predominantly in the ileum); (2) an increased rate of turnover of the enzyme, mainly in the duodenum and proximal jejunum, and most likely due to an increased secretion into the gut lumen of pancreatic proteases (a mechanism also affecting aminopeptidase N and probably other brush-border enzymes as well).

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