The lipid composition and fluidity of jejunal brush-border membrane vesicles (BBMV) have been studied in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and normotensive Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats. The activities of both Na+-dependent D-glucose cotransport and Na+-H+ antiport have also been determined. A significant increase in the level of free cholesterol was observed in jejunal BBMV from SHR compared to WKY rats. Since phospholipid values did not change in either group of animals, a significant enhancement in the free cholesterol/phospholipid ratio was observed in SHR. A decrease in the levels of phosphatidylethanolamine together with an increase in the values of phosphatidylserine was observed in hypertensive rats. Although the content of phosphatidylcholine (PC) and sphingomyelin (SM) was not singificantly altered in SHR, the ratio PC/SM significantly increased in these animals when compared to WKY rats. The major fatty acids present in bursh-border membranes prepared from SHR and WKY rats were palmitic (16:0), stearic (18:0), oleic (18:1, n-9) and linoleic (18:2, n-6), and the fatty acid composition was not modified by the hypertension. A decreased fluorescence polarization, i.e., increased membrane fluidity, was observed in SHR, which was not correlated to the increased ratio of cholesterol/phospholipid found in the brush-border membrane isolated from these animals. These structural changes found in SHR were associated to an enhancement in both Na+-dependent D-glucose transport and Na+-H+ antiport activity in the jejunal BBMV of SHR.

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