1. The activities of enzymes degrading human colonic mucin were examined in faecal specimens from healthy subjects and patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

2. The activity of sialidase was measured using a new physiological substrate related to mucus glycoproteins. In addition, acylneuraminate pyruvate-lyase (N-acetylneuraminate lyase; EC and a novel O-acetylsialic acid esterase (sialate O-acetylesterase; EC were detected.

3. The O-acetylsialic acid esterase activity was readily detectable in partially purified fractions after Sephadex G-100 chromatography.

4. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease showed significant increases in acylneuraminate pyruvate-lyase and proteinase activity but sialidase activity did not differ from normal. The activity of these enzymes in neutrophils could not account for the differences observed.

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